Photonic multitasking enabled with geometric phase

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Science  03 Jun 2016:
Vol. 352, Issue 6290, pp. 1177-1178
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaf8391

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The constructive and destructive interference of waves is often exploited in optics and signal transmission. The interference pattern is a direct measure of the phase difference between two or more beams. Such a phase difference may result from the difference between the optical paths traversed by the light beams. However, phase can change for a single beam if it propagates through an “anisotropic parameter space,” a medium that curves the light; this property is called geometric or topological phase (14). On page 1202 of this issue, Maguid et al. (5) use metasurfaces—ultrathin, planar engineered structures (69)—to form shared-aperture antenna arrays that impart geometric phase to optical signals. These devices can control photonic spin and enable multiple optical functions.