In this multi-layer system, Marlow makes use of the fact that pores of differing diameters have different powers of refraction. “Resonators very selectively filter out specific wavelengths, and they are therefore suitable for processing information in data lines,” says the Max Planck researcher. Marlow still has some way to go with his sandwich structure. But there is evidence that the catalytic structure from the chemistry lab really does have the potential to advance the development of optical components.
Like the rest of his colleagues, Marlow, too, regularly comes by chance across new substances that are suitable for his light experiments – as on the occasion when an attempt to create small hollow balls of a titanium compound went awry. The substance was intended to arrange itself into a pattern of small spheres. But contrary to expectations, the spheres strung themselves together into threads like burst bubbles of chewing gum. These then surprisingly arranged themselves into a regular honeycomb with interesting properties. Visible light of specific wavelengths is bent through extreme angles and reflected.
Experiences such as these confirm the readiness of Ferdi Schüth and his team to expect the unexpected. “I rarely get upset when an experiment apparently fails,” says Schüth, “because it is often failure itself that brings new knowledge. The expected result frequently does no more than confirm what was already known or suspected.”