Research Article

Light Propagation with Phase Discontinuities: Generalized Laws of Reflection and Refraction

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Science  01 Sep 2011:
DOI: 10.1126/science.1210713


Conventional optical components rely on gradual phase shifts accumulated during light propagation to shape light beams. New degrees of freedom are attained by introducing abrupt phase changes over the scale of the wavelength. A two-dimensional array of optical resonators with spatially varying phase response and subwavelength separation can imprint such phase discontinuities on propagating light as it traverses the interface between two media. Anomalous reflection and refraction phenomena are observed in this regime in optically thin arrays of metallic antennas on silicon with a linear phase variation along the interface, in excellent agreement with generalized laws derived from Fermat's principle. Phase discontinuities provide great flexibility in the design of light beams as illustrated by the generation of optical vortices using planar designer metallic interfaces.