Observation of optical polarization Möbius strips

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Science  27 Feb 2015:
Vol. 347, Issue 6225, pp. 964-966
DOI: 10.1126/science.1260635

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Light with twist and structure

Möbius strips are three-dimensional structures consisting of a surface with just a single side. Readily demonstrated by snipping a paper ring, adding a twist, and then joining the ends of paper together again, these structures have intriguing mathematical properties in terms of topology and geometry. Bauer et al. used a liquid crystal to engineer the wavefront of a laser beam to make an optical version of the Möbius strip by effectively “snipping and twisting” the polarization properties of the light beam.

Science, this issue p. 964


Möbius strips are three-dimensional geometrical structures, fascinating for their peculiar property of being surfaces with only one “side”—or, more technically, being “nonorientable” surfaces. Despite being easily realized artificially, the spontaneous emergence of these structures in nature is exceedingly rare. Here, we generate Möbius strips of optical polarization by tightly focusing the light beam emerging from a q-plate, a liquid crystal device that modifies the polarization of light in a space-variant manner. Using a recently developed method for the three-dimensional nanotomography of optical vector fields, we fully reconstruct the light polarization structure in the focal region, confirming the appearance of Möbius polarization structures. The preparation of such structured light modes may be important for complex light beam engineering and optical micro- and nanofabrication.

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