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Metasurfaces Offer Full Control of Light Polarization

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CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Aug. 26, 2021 — Researchers at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Science have developed metasurfaces capable of manipulating the polarization of light with an unprecedented degree of control.

“This research shows that the ability to switch between holographic images that need not be limited to just two polarization states,” said Federico Capasso, the Robert L. Wallace Professor of Applied Physics and Vinton Hayes Senior Research Fellow in Electrical Engineering at SEAS and senior author of the research paper. “Our new metasurface can encode an unlimited number of holographic images or manipulate light in virtually infinite number of directions based on a very large number of polarization states.”
When illuminated with a laser light, the metasurface hologram implements a far-field in which light is directed on the basis of its incident polarization state. Here, the far-field measured on a digital image sensor reflects this desired behavior for six incident polarization states. Courtesy of the Capasso Lab/Harvard SEAS.
When illuminated with a laser light, the metasurface hologram implements a far-field in which light is directed on the basis of its incident polarization state. Here, the far-field measured on a digital image sensor reflects this desired behavior for six incident polarization states. Courtesy of the Capasso Lab/Harvard SEAS.

The research demonstrates a new way to control polarized light with metasurfaces, in which researchers engineer a holographic image with a polarization tunable response across the image itself. The approach, the researchers said, could lead to applications in diverse fields including imaging, microscopes, displays, and astronomy.

“This advancement is general and could be applied to almost any kind of optical system that uses polarized light,” said Noah Rubin, a postdoctoral fellow at SEAS and first author of the paper. “Specifically, this suggests that metasurfaces could be used in new types of laser systems whose output light could be engineered based on light’s polarization state, or perhaps even in telescope systems where similar types of optics are already being used to aid in the detection of Earth-like exoplanets.”

Holography has always been a popular technique to record and display information,” said Aun Zaidi, a graduate student at SEAS and co-lead author of the paper. “We have taken a fundamental principle of holography and generalized it in a way that greatly expands the information capacity of this rather old technique.”

The researchers plan to study the devices further to understand how they may be applied to real-world applications.

The research was published in Science Advances (www.doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.abg7488).

Photonics.com
Aug 2021
GLOSSARY
polarization
With respect to light radiation, the restriction of the vibrations of the magnetic or electric field vector to a single plane. In a beam of electromagnetic radiation, the polarization direction is the direction of the electric field vector (with no distinction between positive and negative as the field oscillates back and forth). The polarization vector is always in the plane at right angles to the beam direction. Near some given stationary point in space the polarization direction in the beam...
holography
The optical recording of the object wave formed by the resulting interference pattern of two mutually coherent component light beams. In the holographic process, a coherent beam first is split into two component beams, one of which irradiates the object, the second of which irradiates a recording medium. The diffraction or scattering of the first wave by the object forms the object wave that proceeds to and interferes with the second coherent beam, or reference wave at the medium. The resulting...
lens
A transparent optical component consisting of one or more pieces of optical glass with surfaces so curved (usually spherical) that they serve to converge or diverge the transmitted rays from an object, thus forming a real or virtual image of that object.
Research & Technologyopticspolarizationpolarized lightholographymetasurfacelens2DHarvardHarvard UniversityHarvard SEASFederico CapassoScience Advances

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