Optical Broadband Angular Selectivity

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Science  28 Mar 2014:
Vol. 343, Issue 6178, pp. 1499-1501
DOI: 10.1126/science.1249799

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Optical Angular Selection

A monochromatic electromagnetic plane wave is typically characterized by three properties: its frequency, its polarization, and its propagation direction. While the selection of light signals based on the first two properties has been studied in depth, selection based on direction is relatively unexplored but equally important. Shen et al. (p. 1499) demonstrate a simple approach that provides narrow-angle selectivity over a broad range of wavelengths using heterostructured photonic crystals that act as a mirror for all but a narrow range of viewing angles where the crystals are transparent. Such angular selection should find a number of applications in, for example, high efficiency solar energy conversion, privacy protection systems, or high signal-to-noise detectors.


Light selection based purely on the angle of propagation is a long-standing scientific challenge. In angularly selective systems, however, the transmission of light usually also depends on the light frequency. We tailored the overlap of the band gaps of multiple one-dimensional photonic crystals, each with a different periodicity, in such a way as to preserve the characteristic Brewster modes across a broadband spectrum. We provide theory as well as an experimental realization with an all–visible spectrum, p-polarized angularly selective material system. Our method enables transparency throughout the visible spectrum at one angle—the generalized Brewster angle—and reflection at every other viewing angle.

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