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Light control in novel photonic structures

The ability to control and manipulate the structure of light itself – i.e. tailoring features that are smaller than the light wavelength and tune them in space – has been the subject of intense research lately. EU-funded scientists have enhanced knowledge on how the light field is distributed in extraordinary, yet poorly explored photonic structures.
Light control in novel photonic structures
Over the last decade, actively controlling optical fields in various photonic media has been of great interest for both fundamental and applied research. With their capacity to split, bend and store light, new kinds of photonic media, including photonic crystals, metamaterials or plasmonic materials, are endowing light with new degrees of freedom. For example, it is possible to study a range of complex light patterns such as accelerating beams, non-diffracting beams, light-carrying optical vortices and orbital angular momentum that paves the way to exciting applications in communication systems, quantum information and on-chip signal processing.

Within the EU-funded project STRUCTURED LIGHT (Structured light in photonics media), scientists successfully managed to control light in fundamental new ways. The focus was on demonstrating propagation properties of light when trapped in topological insulators, travelling in curved space or under artificial gauge fields.

Quasicrystal lattices served as a new photonic medium to study propagation of light in topological insulators. With a focus on studying edge-state transport, scientists showed that it is possible to store, release and scatter topological edge states into flat bands that enable new ways to control topological light. Topological protected transport was also demonstrated in photonic lattices with space-time reflection symmetry. Based on these findings, scientists proposed the first topological lasing system, which is a major step in integrating topological properties to optical devices.

Using spherical surfaces, the team demonstrated how light propagates in curved spaces. Non-diffracting light beams with accelerating lobes propagated on trajectories that are totally different from a straight line from a point A to a point B. Scientists also showed that by manipulating the curvature of a new class of 3D nanophotonic structures they can gain control over the light trajectory, the diffraction rate, and the phase and group velocity.

For the first time, scientists have shown how light propagates in composite structures under artificial gauge fields. This new scheme of optical waveguide makes it possible to confine and manipulate light on chips.

Overall, the STRUCTURED LIGHT team investigated innovative optical nanostructures that enable the control and manipulation of light. Project findings are providing new opportunities for a range of applications such as information and communication systems, microscopy and micromachining.

Related information

Subjects

Life Sciences

Keywords

Light control, photonic structures, STRUCTURED LIGHT, topological insulators, artificial gauge fields
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