Light–Matter Interaction: Physics and Engineering at the Nanoscale,

John
Weiner
and
Frederico
Nunes
,
Oxford U. Press
, 2013. $110.00 (261 pp.). ISBN 978-0-19-856765-3

Research on the interaction between radiation and matter at the nanoscale has flourished in the past few years due to increasing interest in such novel light–matter coupling phenomena as field enhancement at metallic nano-objects and such far-reaching applications as plasmonic nano-antennas and biosensors. Thus modern books that attempt to introduce students and nonexpert researchers to basic principles in the field are welcome.

Light–Matter Interaction: Physics and Engineering at the Nanoscale is such a text. Written by John Weiner and Frederico Nunes, two of the field’s active researchers, it covers basic theory and contains worked examples, end-of-chapter exercises, sections called “complements” that follow two of the book’s five chapters and elaborate on the material therein, and end-of-book appendices. Altogether, Light–Matter Interaction is pleasant to read and does a good job of introducing the reader to electromagnetic waves in matter and to nanoscale radiation–matter interactions, with a focus on surface and interface phenomena. The book’s distinctive feature is its joining of physics and engineering in its description of surface plasmons: You’ll find both a detailed description of the theoretical bases and examples from real metallic systems.

After a crisp introductory chapter on the history of light and matter—from the works of Leucippus and Democritus to Albert Einstein and Paul Dirac—chapter 2 reviews the theory of electromagnetic wave propagation. It begins with macroscopic fields and Maxwell’s equations in matter and discusses classical topics like energy density and the Poynting vector, dipole radiation, and propagation in dielectric and conducting media. The treatment is didactic and rather complete. Some common textbook topics, like Fresnel formulas for reflection and transmission at oblique incidence, are not included; but such standard material can be easily found elsewhere. Complements on energy flow in polarizable media, macroscopic polarization, and charge oscillators add useful information. The chapter sets the necessary background for the subsequent topics and is similar to treatments in well-known textbooks like John David Jackson’s Classical Electrodynamics (3rd edition, Wiley, 1998).

Chapters 3 and 4, which deal with surface waves and the equivalent circuit picture, make up the book’s core. In chapter 3 the authors present the theory of electromagnetic surface modes, with an emphasis on surface plasmons in planar geometry. They derive the main formulas for surface modes with retardation and discuss surface plasmon polariton dispersion, attenuation constants, and more. Particularly strong features include the detailed formulas for and examples of surface plasmons in real metals and the full account of dissipation effects.

The electrical engineering presentation in chapter 4 covers transmission lines, waveguides, and more complex circuit elements. It also addresses surface plasmons as oscillations in resonant circuits made of lumped elements, principally inductors and capacitors. The detailed description, using matrix analysis, of electromagnetic wave propagation nicely sets up the discussion, based on a comparison to lumped circuits, of nanoscale plasmonic systems—for example, slit apertures and nanospheres.

The fifth and final chapter deals with classical and quantum treatments of atomic emission and absorption, radiative damping, the Schrödinger equation, Einstein’s theory of stimulated and spontaneous emission, and related topics; a subsequent complement covers blackbody radiation. The chapter is well written, but its relation to the others is not clearly spelled out. The book is rounded out by appendices on electromagnetic systems of units, vector calculus, cylindrical and spherical coordinates, phasors, and special functions.

Researchers in nanophotonics and plasmonics will find references, formulas, and detailed derivations that often do not appear in specialized reviews. Students and researchers with specific interests will find it useful to go through the derivations and extract the relevant conclusions. However, it would have been helpful if the main results and equations were highlighted with boxes or some other graphical element—perhaps the authors or the publisher will do that in a second edition.

Light–Matter Interaction will find a useful place in the libraries of students and researchers in the field and could be used as a main or supporting textbook in a one-semester course for undergraduate or graduate students in physics, photonics, or electrical engineering—or even better, in a course with a mixed audience of students from those disciplines.

Lucio Claudio Andreani is a professor of physics at the University of Pavia in Italy. His research interests include nanophotonics, plasmonics, photovoltaics, and other phenomena and applications related to light and matter.