Materials such as milk, paper, white paint and tissue are opaque because they scatter light, not because they absorb it. But no matter how great the scattering, light is always able to get through the material in question.
At least, according to the theory. Researchers Ivo Vellekoop and Allard Mosk of the University of Twente have now confirmed this with experiments. By shaping the waveform of light, they have succeeded in finding the predicted ‘open channels’ in material along which the light is able to move. The results will soon be published in Physical Review Letters and are already available on the authoritative websites: ScienceNOW and Physics Today.
In materials that have a disordered structure, incident light is scattered in every direction possible. In an opaque layer, so much scattering takes place that barely any light comes out ‘at the back’. However, even a material that causes a great deal of light scattering has channels along which light can propagate. This is only possible if the light meets strict preconditions so that the scattered light waves can reinforce one another on the way to the exit.
Always an open channel
By manipulating the waveform of light, Vellekoop and Mosk have succeeded in finding these open channels. They used an opaque layer of the white pigment, zinc oxide, which was in use by painters such as Van Gogh. Only a small part of the original laser light that falls on the zinc oxide, as a plane wave, is allowed through. As every painter knows, the thicker the paint coating, the less light it will let through. By using information about the light transmitted to programme the laser, the researchers shaped the waveform to the optimum form to get it to pass through the open channels.
To this end, parts of the incident wave were slowed down to allow the scattered light to interfere in precisely the right manner with other parts of the same wave. In this way, Vellekoop and Mosk increased the amount of light allowed through by no less than 44 percent. As theoreticians had predicted, open channels can always be found and transmission through them is, furthermore, independent of the thickness of the material concerned.
The results are highly remarkable: although the theoretical existence of open channels was acknowledged, so far manipulating the light such that the channels in materials could actually be found has been too complex. As a result of better light conductivity in opaque materials, it may in the future be easier to look into materials that have so far not divulged their secrets: for example in medical imaging technology. There is a significant parallel with the conductivity of electrons in extremely thin wires, such as those on semi-conductor chips. Electrons, which according to quantum mechanics behave as waves, move through these same open channels.
It is also conceivable that this research will yield more information about waveforms other than light, such as radio waves for mobile communication: can the range be improved by adjusting the waveform?
This research was carried out in the Complex Photonic Systems group of the University of Twente’s MESA+ Institute for Nanotechnology. It is financed by the Foundation for Fundamental Research on Matter (FOM) and by a Vidi grant from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO).
Wiebe van der Veen | alfa
Measured for the first time: Direction of light waves changed by quantum effect
24.05.2017 | Vienna University of Technology
Physicists discover mechanism behind granular capillary effect
24.05.2017 | University of Cologne
Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.
The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....
An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.
We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...
Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.
Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...
An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...
In the race to produce a quantum computer, a number of projects are seeking a way to create quantum bits -- or qubits -- that are stable, meaning they are not much affected by changes in their environment. This normally needs highly nonlinear non-dissipative elements capable of functioning at very low temperatures.
In pursuit of this goal, researchers at EPFL's Laboratory of Photonics and Quantum Measurements LPQM (STI/SB), have investigated a nonlinear graphene-based...
24.05.2017 | Event News
23.05.2017 | Event News
22.05.2017 | Event News
24.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
24.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
24.05.2017 | Event News