Arbitrary spin-to–orbital angular momentum conversion of light

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Science  17 Nov 2017:
Vol. 358, Issue 6365, pp. 896-901
DOI: 10.1126/science.aao5392

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From spins to spirals

The polarization state of light can be used in imaging applications and optical communications. Light can also be structured into vortices that carry optical angular momentum, which can be used for micromanipulation and enhancing the capacity of optical communication channels. Devlin et al. present a metasurface converter for optical states that transforms polarization states into optical angular momentum states. The coupling between arbitrary spin and optical angular momentum states of light in a compact planar structure may find applications in producing complex structured light fields.

Science, this issue p. 896


Optical elements that convert the spin angular momentum (SAM) of light into vortex beams have found applications in classical and quantum optics. These elements—SAM-to–orbital angular momentum (OAM) converters—are based on the geometric phase and only permit the conversion of left- and right-circular polarizations (spin states) into states with opposite OAM. We present a method for converting arbitrary SAM states into total angular momentum states characterized by a superposition of independent OAM. We designed a metasurface that converts left- and right-circular polarizations into states with independent values of OAM and designed another device that performs this operation for elliptically polarized states. These results illustrate a general material-mediated connection between SAM and OAM of light and may find applications in producing complex structured light and in optical communication.

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