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Diffraction-free beams: Straightening light sheets

In a Nature Photonics paper "Diffraction-free space–time light sheets" postdoctoral student Esat Kondakci and Professor Ayman Abouraddy realize diffraction-free planar light sheets in air by exploiting polychromatic pulsed beams.

Diffraction-free optical beams propagate freely without change in shape and scale. Monochromatic beams that avoid diffractive spreading require two-dimensional transverse profiles and there are no corresponding solutions for profiles restricted to one transverse dimension. Here, we demonstrate that the temporal degree of freedom can be exploited to efficiently synthesize one-dimensional pulsed light sheets that propagate self-similarly in free space, with no need for nonlinearity or dispersion. By introducing programmable conical (hyperbolic, parabolic or elliptical) spectral correlations between the beam’s spatiotemporal degrees of freedom, a continuum of families of propagation-invariant light sheets is generated. The spectral loci of such beams are the reduced-dimensionality trajectories at the intersection of the light-cone with spatiotemporal spectral planes. Far from being exceptional, self-similar axial-propagation in free space is a generic feature of fields whose spatial and temporal degrees of freedom are tightly correlated. These ‘space–time’ light sheets can be useful in microscopy, nonlinear spectroscopy, and non-contact measurements.

See discussion in Nature Photonics News & Views

Posted Tuesday, November 21, 2017

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