Pune Science Weekly: IISER physicists develop new method to retrieve encoded structure in light

A group of physicists from Pune has demonstrated a novel experimental protocol that optimises retrieval and transfer of optical information and energy at the scale of a microchip.

Among the many uses of this method can be in optimizing fiber and optical communications used for day-to-day internet and telecommunication-based services. With electronics and communication devices getting downsized with each passing day, information decoding technologies that can act at microchip or smaller levels are required.

Information can be encoded and transmitted using structured light. World over, research to develop methods to store and retrieve this information is currently on. Thus having advanced experimental protocols has become a necessity and one such pathway has been devised by the group led by GV Pavan Kumar from the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), Pune.

The team experimentally retrieved spin angular momentum and orbital angular momentum of light through scattering using silver nanowire. In their experimental configuration, silver nanowires facilitate better interaction with light due to their metallic nature.

“Both these angular momentsa of light are important degrees of freedom available in a propagating light beam. These can be used to encode optical information and can be harnessed to study and understand interactions between light and matter at a scale smaller than the wavelength of light, wherein nanoscale optical forces and torques play a significant role,” said Kumar.

Such pathways, the IISER scientists say, can be best suitable in decoding the information, that too, at the microchip levels. “This protocol can be used to read and retrieve information at micro scales and our work adds a new pathway of retrieval by using light-scattering technique,” ​​the physicists said.

Scholars Diptabrata Paul and Deepak Sharma, who were part of the study published in the journal Laser & Photonics Reviews, further stated that the new protocol can be harnessed to apply optical forces and torques down to the scale of a large molecule. “Such pathways hold potential in improving light-molecule interactions, optical data reading, at classical and quantum optical regimes,” they said.

Applications of this protocol include rotation and sorting of micro and nano-objects as required in a chiral biological environment and in nano-scale optomechanics at classical and quantum regimes.

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