New 'Super Class' of Photons Could Lead to Breakthroughs in Brain Imaging

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A new super class of photons called “Majorana photons” could lead to enhanced information on quantum-level transition and imaging of the brain and its workings.

City College of New York (CCNY) professor Robert R. Alfano, whose accomplishments include the discovery of supercontinuum and Cr tunable lasers, and his research group based their work on the fact that photons — while possessing salient properties of polarization, wavelength, coherence, and spatial modes — take on several forms.

“Photons are amazing,” he said. “The key is not all photons are the same.”

According to Alfano, the team’s focus “was to use a ‘special super form’ of photons, which process the entanglement twists of both polarizations and the wavefront to probe and would propagate deeper in brain tissues, microtubules, and neuron cells, giving more fundamental information of the brain than the conventional photon forms.” 

These unique photons can travel with different wavefronts. They also have a vortex where the wavefront twists and polarization is nonhomogenous in the wave beam diameter. These beams are called cylindrical vector vortex beams (CVVB). 

Among these CVVB photons, the team identified a new “super special” class called classical entangled photon beams. These photons were mixed, locally having both types of circular polarization and +L and –L orbital angular momentum. In addition, they were entangled with their own antiphoton. Two that stood out were radial and azimuthal optical beams.

Alfano named the new class “Majorana photons,” after Ettore Majorana, an Italian theoretical physicist and protégé of Enrico Fermi, who worked on neutrino masses.

“The ‘super special photon’ will play an important role in understanding the fundamental and quantum processes in materials, deeper penetration, and to advance applications in photo detection sensing, information, communication, and future computers,” said Alfano, a prolific inventor whose research since 1970 has led to advancements in ultrafast laser science and nonlinear optical imaging.

Alfano told Photonics Media that the discovery was made by “working with complex light with spin and orbital momentum of light together for transmission in scattering media.”

This research was partly funded by a five-year $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Army Research Office to investigate quantum effects in the brain and in microtubules and neuron cells.

Collaborators include Travis Craddock (Nova Southeastern University); Lingyan Shi (University of California, San Diego); Enrique Galvez (Colgate University); Daniel Nolan (Corning); and Sandra Mamani, an electrical engineering doctoral student at CCNY.

Published: July 2019
Research & TechnologyAmericasImagingMajorana photonsclassical entangled photon beamsDr. Robert AlfanoBiophotonicsbrain imagingTech Pulse

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