At a time when communication networks are scrambling for ways to transmit more data over limited bandwidth, a type of twisted light wave is gaining new attention. Called an optical vortex or vortex beam, this complex beam resembles a corkscrew, with waves that rotate as they travel.
Now, applied physicists at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) have created a new device that enables a conventional optical detector (which would normally only measure the light's intensity) to pick up on that rotation.
The device, described in the journal Nature Communications, has the potential to add capacity to future optical communication networks.
"Sophisticated optical detectors for vortex beams have been developed before, but they have always been complex, expensive, and bulky,” says principal investigator Federico Capasso, Robert L. Wallace Professor of Applied Physics and Vinton Hayes Senior Research Fellow in Electrical Engineering at SEAS.
In contrast, the new device simply adds a metallic pattern to the window of a commercially available, low-cost photodetector. Each pattern is designed to couple with a particular type of incoming vortex beam by matching its orbital angular momentum—the number of twists per wavelength in an optical vortex.
Sensitive to the beam’s “twistiness,” this new detector can effectively distinguish between different types of vortex beams. Existing communications systems maximize bandwidth by sending many messages simultaneously, each a fraction of a wavelength apart; this is known as wavelength division multiplexing. Vortex beams can add an additional level of multiplexing and therefore should expand the capacity of these systems.
"In recent years, researchers have come to realize that there is a limit to the information transfer rate of about 100 terabits per second per fiber for communication systems that use wavelength division multiplexing to increase the capacity of single-mode optical fibers," explains Capasso. "In the future, this capacity could be greatly increased by using vortex beams transmitted on special multicore or multimode fibers. For a transmission system based on this 'spatial division multiplexing' to provide the extra capacity, special detectors capable of sorting out the type of vortex transmitted will be essential."
The new detector is able to tell one type of vortex beam from another due to its precise nanoscale patterning. When a vortex beam with the correct number of coils per wavelength strikes the gold plating on the detector’s surface, it encounters a holographic interference pattern that has been etched into the gold. This nanoscale patterning allows the light to excite the metal's electrons in exactly the right way to produce a focused electromagnetic wave, known as a surface plasmon. The light component of this wave then shines through a series of perforations in the gold, and lands on the photodetector below.
If the incoming light doesn't match the interference pattern, the plasmon beam fails to focus or converge and is blocked from reaching the detector.
Capasso's research team has demonstrated this process using vortex beams with orbital angular momentum of −1, 0, and 1.
"In principle, an array of many different couplers and detectors could be set up to read data transmitted on a very large number of channels," says lead author Patrice Genevet, a research associate in applied physics at SEAS. “With this approach, we transform detectors that were originally only sensitive to the intensity of light, so that they monitor the twist of the wavefronts. More than just detecting a specific twisted beam, our detectors gather additional information on the phase of the light beam.”
The device's ability to detect and distinguish vortex beams is important for optical communications, but its capabilities may extend beyond what has been demonstrated.
"Using the same holographic approach, the same device patterned in different ways should be able to couple any type of free-space light beam into any type of surface wave," says Genevet.
Coauthors on this work included Jiao Lin, a former postdoctoral fellow in Capasso’s lab (now at the Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology), and Harvard graduate student Mikhail A. Kats.
The research was supported by the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research, the U.S. Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Agency, and through research fellowships from the Agency for Science, Technology, and Research in Singapore and the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF). The researchers also benefited from facilities at Harvard's Center for Nanoscale Systems, a member of the NSF-supported National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network.
Caroline Perry | Source: EurekAlert!
Further information: www.seas.harvard.edu
Further Reports about: angular momentum > Applied and Environmental Microbiology > Applied Science > communication networks > communication system > Counting > Ferchau Engineering > Genevet > information technology > optical communication > optical fiber > SEAS
More articles from Physics and Astronomy:
Researchers Solve Mystery of X-Ray Light From Black Holes
18.06.2013 | Johns Hopkins
Hubble Uncovers Evidence for Extrasolar Planet Under Construction
17.06.2013 | Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI)
... two engines aircraft project “Elektro E6”.
The countdown has been started for opening the gates again for the worldwide leading aviation and space event in Le Bourget, Paris from June 17th - 23rd, 2013.
EADCO & PC-Aero will present at the Paris Air Show in Hall H4 booth F-7 their new future aircraft and innovative project: ...
Siemens scientists have developed new kinds of ceramics in which they can embed transformers.
The new development allows power supply transformers to be reduced to one fifth of their current size so that the normally separate switched-mode power supply units of light-emitting diodes can be integrated into the module's heat sink.
The new technology was developed in cooperation with industrial and research partners who ...
Cheaper clean-energy technologies could be made possible thanks to a new discovery.
Led by Raymond Schaak, a professor of chemistry at Penn State University, research team members have found that an important chemical reaction that generates hydrogen from water is effectively triggered -- or catalyzed -- by a nanoparticle composed of nickel and phosphorus, two inexpensive elements that are abundant on Earth. ...
The Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT generated a lot of interest at the LASER World of Photonics 2013 trade fair with its numerous industrial laser technology innovations.
Its highlights included beam sources and manufacturing processes for ultrashort laser pulses as well as ways to systematically optimize machining processes using computer simulations. There was even a specialist booth at the fair dedicated to the revolutionary technological potential of digital photonic production.
Now in its fortieth year, LASER World ...
It's not reruns of "The Jetsons", but researchers working at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have developed a new microscopy technique that uses a process similar to how an old tube television produces a picture—cathodoluminescence—to image nanoscale features.
Combining the best features of optical and scanning electron microscopy, the fast, versatile, and high-resolution technique allows scientists to view surface and subsurface features potentially as small as 10 nanometers in size.
The new microscopy technique, described in the journal AIP Advances,* uses a beam of electrons to excite a specially ...
18.06.2013 | Materials Sciences
18.06.2013 | Health and Medicine
18.06.2013 | Life Sciences
14.06.2013 | Event News
13.06.2013 | Event News
10.06.2013 | Event News