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Maxwell’s electromagnetic theory, formulated 150 years ago, was one of the greatest breakthroughs in the history of physics, and continues to yield new results today.  In a recent paper published in Nature Communications, scientists show that surface electromagnetic waves at certain interfaces, which arise as solutions of classical Maxwell’s equations, also have a purely topological origin.

Maxwell’s electromagnetic theory unified electricity and magnetism, providing the ultimate description of electromagnetic waves, including light, and anticipating relativity and the field theories developed in the 20th century. About 60 years ago, scientists found that electromagnetic radiation can propagate, not only in free space, but also as surface waves at interfaces between different media, for example between metals and air or glass. This resulted in the development of plasmonics and metamaterials, where surface electromagnetic waves underpin numerous phenomena and useful applications.

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Category: Science