Looking into four-dimensional space with light

Optical setup based on a spatial light modulator, which tailores the two incomming beams (not drawn). Their superposition generates the Hopfion structure. Waveplate and beam splitter together generate orthogonal circular polarization for both beams.
© WWU - Ramon Droop

Research team develops for the first time a light field that reflects the structure of four-dimensional space.

Researchers have developed a method for structuring light in such a way that a projection from four-dimensional space is created. The results have now been published in the journal Nature Communications.

Light is used for various purposes in nowadays applications. For example, data can be transmitted with light and nanoscopic structures can be created by light. To enable such applications, light must be structured. To do this, its properties – intensity (brightness), phase (position in oscillation-cycle) and polarization (direction of the oscillation) – are “tailored”. Typically, this results in three-dimensionally structured light fields, for example by using a hologram. Going beyond this, now an international team of researchers led by Prof. Dr. Cornelia Denz of the University of Münster and Prof. Dr. Mark Dennis of the University of Birmingham (United Kingdom) has developed a method for structuring light in such a way that a projection from four-dimensional space is created. The results have now been published in the journal Nature Communications.

The team first predicted the complex light structure theoretically (mathematically) and then realized and measured it experimentally. The structure is called Hopfion, named after the German-Swiss mathematician Heinz Hopf. In simplified terms, it looks like countless rings lying inside each other and its projection into 3d space can be compared to the projection of the three-dimensional earth onto a two-dimensional map. In contrast to this, however, with the Hopfion a part of the four-dimensional space is transferred into the three-dimensional space. This means: From the measurements in the three-dimensional space, conclusions can be drawn about the properties of the fourth dimension.

The search for four-dimensional light fields is keeping the optics community busy because, for example, light structured in this way would provide a way to transmit data faster. “The fourth dimension is a mathematical construction. We cannot spatially imagine four dimensions with our senses,” says physicist Ramon Droop of WWU Münster, one of the study’s first authors.

The scientists developed a method that directs light from two laser beams into a structure about 0.2 x 0.2 x 50 cubic millimetres in size that is interwoven to form a hopfion. They accomplished this by using so-called liquid crystal-based spatial light modulators, which can be used to electrically control the optical properties of the light.

The team also developed a new imaging method that can spatially resolve the properties of light associated with the four dimensions. To do this, the group uses a method similar to tomography of measuring two-dimensional slices, which are then assembled to form three-dimensional space. It is then possible to calculate exactly which part of the four-dimensional space is mapped.

“Based on these research results, new types of laser beams could be developed in the future to make data communications more secure. The arrangement of nanostructures could be made more versatile and simpler, and material processing more precise,” Cornelia Denz gives an outlook.

Wissenschaftliche Ansprechpartner:

Ramon Droop
University of Münster
Institute of Applied Physics
Mail: R.Droop@uni-muenster.de


Danica Sugic, Ramon Droop, Eileen Otte, Daniel Ehrmanntraut, Franco Nori, Janne Ruostekoski, Cornelia Denz & Mark R. Dennis (2021): Particle-like topologies in light. Nature Communications 12, 6785; https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-021-26171-5


Media Contact

Dr. Christina Hoppenbrock Stabsstelle Kommunikation und Öffentlichkeitsarbeit
Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster

All latest news from the category: Physics and Astronomy

This area deals with the fundamental laws and building blocks of nature and how they interact, the properties and the behavior of matter, and research into space and time and their structures.

innovations-report provides in-depth reports and articles on subjects such as astrophysics, laser technologies, nuclear, quantum, particle and solid-state physics, nanotechnologies, planetary research and findings (Mars, Venus) and developments related to the Hubble Telescope.

Back to home

Comments (0)

Write a comment

Newest articles

Finding the ship that sent out a warning to The Titanic

New powerful technology reveals lost seabed structures. The ship which sent an iceberg warning to the RMS Titanic, before the ocean-liner sank, has been identified lying in the Irish Sea….

Quantum technology reaches unprecedented control over captured light

Researchers in quantum technology at Chalmers University of Technology have succeeded in developing a technique to control quantum states of light in a three-dimensional cavity. In addition to creating previously…

Tiny swimming robots treat deadly pneumonia in mice

Nanoengineers at the University of California San Diego have developed microscopic robots, called microrobots, that can swim around in the lungs, deliver medication and be used to clear up life-threatening…

Partners & Sponsors