Polarization, or the direction in which light vibrates, is imperceptible to the human eye but contains a wealth of information about the objects with which it interacts. Controlling and characterizing polarization is critical for various applications ranging from biomedical imaging to optical communications. Researchers have created metasurface optics, which allow them to remotely control the polarization of light as it travels through space along the beam’s path.
Titanium dioxide nanopillars are arranged in rings on a glass substrate to form metasurface optics. Like the rings of a tree, each ring of nanopillars contains information — in this case, polarization information. Nanopillars encode the polarization information onto the beam as light passes through the metasurface. As the beam moves away from the metasurface, it remembers that information. It changes polarization so that the polarization will acquire a specific state at any given point away from the metasurface.
The metasurface optics were created using CMOS-compatible technology, which means they could be easily integrated into larger optical systems.
This device enables new and sophisticated light states in applications requiring polarization control, such as remote sensing, light-matter interaction, and quantum communications. The team intends to expand the technique to metasurfaces that can control light in space and over time, potentially opening up many new avenues in science and technology.
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