Quantum cascade lasers (QCL) have revolutionized the generation of mid-infrared light. Yet, the ultrafast carrier transport in mid-infrared QCLs has so far constituted a seemingly insurmountable obstacle for the formation of ultrashort light pulses. Here, we demonstrate that careful quantum design of the gain medium and control over the intermode beat synchronization enable transform-limited picosecond pulses from QCL frequency combs. Both an interferometric radio-frequency technique and second-order autocorrelation shed light on the pulse dynamics and confirm that mode-locked operation is achieved from threshold to rollover current. Furthermore, we show that both anti-phase and in-phase synchronized states exist in QCLs. Being electrically pumped and compact, mode-locked QCLs pave the way towards monolithically integrated non-linear photonics in the molecular fingerprint region beyond 6 $μ$m wavelength.
Nonlinear interactions in many physical systems lead to symmetry breaking phenomena in which an initial spatially homogeneous stationary solution becomes modulated. Modulation instabilities have been widely studied since the 1960s in different branches of nonlinear physics. In optics, they may result in the formation of optical solitons, localized structures that maintain their shape as they propagate, which have been investigated in systems ranging from optical fibres to passive microresonators. Recently, a generalized version of the Lugiato–Lefever equation predicted their existence in ring quantum cascade lasers with an external driving field, a configuration that enables the bistability mechanism at the basis of the formation of optical solitons. Here, we consider this driven emitter and extensively study the structures emerging therein. The most promising regimes for localized structure formation are assessed by means of a linear stability analysis of the homogeneous stationary solution (or continuous-wave solution). In particular, we show the existence of phase solitons – chiral structures excited by phase jumps in the cavity – and cavity solitons. The latter can be deterministically excited by means of writing pulses and manipulated by the application of intensity gradients, making them promising as frequency combs (in the spectral domain) or reconfigurable bit sequences that can encode information inside the ring cavity.
Birefringence occurs when light with different polarizations sees different refractive indices during propagation. It plays an important role in optics and has enabled essential polarization elements such as wave plates. In bulk crystals, it is typically constrained to linear birefringence. In metamaterials with freeform meta-atoms, however, one can engineer the optical anisotropy such that light sees different indices for arbitrary—linear, circular, or elliptical—orthogonal eigen-polarization states. Using topology-optimized metasurfaces, we demonstrate this arbitrary birefringence. It has the unique feature that it can be continuously tuned from linear to elliptical birefringence, by changing the angle of incidence. In this way, a single metasurface can operate as many wave plates in parallel, implementing different polarization transformations. Angle-tunable arbitrary birefringence expands the scope of polarization optics, enables compact and versatile polarization operations that would otherwise require cascading multiple elements, and may find applications in polarization imaging, quantum optics, and other areas.
A metasurface laser generates orbital angular momentum states with quantum numbers reaching l = 100. Simultaneous output vortex beams, with Delta l as great as 90, are demonstrated in the visible regime. Orbital angular momentum (OAM) from lasers holds promise for compact, at-source solutions for applications ranging from imaging to communications. However, conjugate symmetry between circular spin and opposite helicity OAM states (+/- l) from conventional spin-orbit approaches has meant that complete control of light's angular momentum from lasers has remained elusive. Here, we report a metasurface-enhanced laser that overcomes this limitation. We demonstrate new high-purity OAM states with quantum numbers reaching l = 100 and non-symmetric vector vortex beams that lase simultaneously on independent OAM states as much as Delta l = 90 apart, an extreme violation of previous symmetric spin-orbit lasing devices. Our laser conveniently outputs in the visible, producing new OAM states of light as well as all previously reported OAM modes from lasers, offering a compact and power-scalable source that harnesses intracavity structured matter for the creation of arbitrary chiral states of structured light.
Nanowires bring new possibilities to the field of hot-carrier photovoltaics by providing flexibility in combining materials for band engineering and using nanophotonic effects to control light absorption. Previously, an open-circuit voltage beyond the Shockley-Queisser limit was demonstrated in hot-carrier devices based on InAs-InP-InAs nanowire heterostructures. However, in these first experiments, the location of light absorption, and therefore the precise mechanism of hot-carrier extraction, was uncontrolled. In this letter, we combine plasmonic nanoantennas with InAs-InP-InAs nanowire devices to enhance light absorption within a subwavelength region near an InP energy barrier that serves as an energy filter. From photon energy- and irradiance-dependent photocurrent and photovoltage measurements, we find that photocurrent generation is dominated by internal photoemission of non-thermalized hot electrons when the photoexcited electron energy is above the barrier, and by photo-thermionic emission when the energy is below the barrier. We estimate that an internal quantum efficiency up to 0.5–1.2% is achieved. Insights from this study provide guidelines to improve internal quantum efficiencies based on nanowire heterostructures.
Titanium nitride (TiN) has been identified as a promising refractory material for high temperature plasmonic applications such as surface plasmon polaritons (SPPs) waveguides, lasers and light sources, and near field optics. Such SPPs are sensitive not only to the highly metallic nature of the TiN, but also to its low loss. We have formed highly metallic, low-loss TiN thin films on MgO substrates to create SPPs with resonances between 775-825&\#x2005;nm. Scanning near-field optical microscopy (SNOM) allowed imaging of the SPP fringes, the accurate determination of the effective wavelength of the SPP modes, and propagation lengths greater than 10 microns. Further, we show the engineering of the band structure of the plasmonic modes in TiN in the mid-IR regime and experimentally demonstrate, for the first time, the ability of TiN to support Spoof Surface Plasmon Polaritons in the mid-IR (6 microns wavelength).
Metalenses are optical devices that implement nanostructures as phase shifters to focus incident light. Their compactness and simple fabrication make them a potential cost-effective solution for increasing light collection efficiency in particle detectors with limited photosensitive area coverage. Here we report on the characterization and performance of metalenses in increasing the light collection efficiency of silicon photomultipliers (SiPM) of various sizes using an LED of 630 nm, and find a six to seven-fold increase in signal for a 1.3×1.3 mm2 SiPM when coupled with a 10-mm-diameter metalens manufactured using deep ultraviolet stepper lithography. Such improvements could be valuable for future generations of particle detectors, particularly those employed in rare-event searches such as dark matter and neutrinoless double beta decay.
Coupled clocks are a classic example of a synchronization system leading to periodic collective oscillations. Already in 1665, Christiaan Huygens described this phenomenon as a kind of ``sympathy'' among oscillators. In this work, we describe the formation of two types of laser frequency combs as a system of oscillators coupled through the beating of the lasing modes. We experimentally show two completely different types of synchronization in a quantum dot laser-in-phase and splay-phase states. Both states can be generated in the same device, just by varying the damping losses of the system. This modifies the coupling among the oscillators. The temporal laser output is characterized using both linear and quadratic autocorrelation techniques. Our results show that both pulses and frequency-modulated states can be generated on demand within the same device. These findings allow us to connect laser frequency combs produced by amplitude-modulated and frequency-modulated lasers and link these to pattern formation in coupled systems such as Josephson junction arrays.
Controlling light with subwavelength-designed metasurfaces (MSs) has allowed for the arbitrary creation of structured light by precisely engineered matter. We report on the purity and conversion efficiency of hybrid orbital angular momentum (OAM)-generating MSs. We use a recently reported method to design and fabricate meta-surfaces that exploit generalized spin-orbit coupling to produce vector OAM states with asymmetric OAM superpositions, e.g., 1 and 5, coupled to linear and circular polarization states, fractional vector OAM states with OAM values of 3.5 and 6.5, and also the common conjugate spin and OAM of ±1 as reported in previous spin-orbit coupling devices. The OAM and radial modes in the resulting beams are quantitatively studied by implementing a modal decomposition approach, establishing both purity and conversion efficiency. We find conversion efficiencies exceeding 75% and purities in excess of 95%. A phase-flattening approach reveals that the OAM purity can be very low due to the presence of undesired radial components. We characterize the effect and illustrate how to suppress the undesired radial modes.
Metastructures hold promises for the realization of novel optical functions. Common topologies utilized in the form of metasurfaces featuring simple periodicities, however, are not exploiting the full potential such platform can offer. On the other hand, disordered metasurfaces consisting of strongly coupled elements can provide a versatile platform with large degrees of freedom to be exploited in an inverse design process. Here, we investigate a new class of disordered metasurfaces; a disordered network of scattering elements strongly connected through interelement free space coupling and excited guided waves. Such a highly connected network of scatterers exhibits very strong angular sensitivity for the plane waves illuminating the structure at arbitrary angles; a minute deviation in the angle of incidence results in a drastic change in the radiation profile both in near and far-field regions. This peculiar feature is harnessed by engineered disorder implemented through a rigorous near-optimal freeform inverse design algorithm to realize arbitrarily large metasurfaces with unexpected angular single/multifunctionality. Our proposed scheme is extendable to implement novel functions demanded by emerging applications such as LiDARs and highly secure communication systems.
Metalenses, planar lenses realized by placing subwavelength nanostructures that locally impart lenslike phase shifts to the incident light, are promising as a replacement for refractive optics for their ultrathin, lightweight, and tailorable characteristics, especially for applications where payload is of significant importance. However, the requirement of fabricating up to billions of subwavelength structures for centimeter-scale metalenses can constrain size-scalability and mass-production for large lenses. In this Letter, we demonstrate a centimeter-scale, all-glass metalens capable of focusing and imaging at visible wavelength, using deep-ultraviolet (DUV) projection stepper lithography. Here, we show size-scalability and potential for mass-production by fabricating 45 metalenses of 1 cm diameter on a 4 in. fused-silica wafer. The lenses show diffraction-limited focusing behavior for any homogeneously polarized incidence at visible wavelengths. The metalens performance is quantified by the Strehl ratio and the modulation transfer function (MTF), which are then compared with commercial refractive spherical and aspherical singlet lenses of similar size and focal length. We further explore the imaging capabilities of our metalens using a color-pixel sCMOS camera and scanning-imaging techniques, demonstrating potential applications for virtual reality (VR) devices or biological imaging techniques.
Metasurfaces have attracted widespread attention due to an increasing demand of compact and wearable optical devices. For many applications, polarization-insensitive metasurfaces are highly desirable, and appear to limit the choice of their constituent elements to isotropic nanostructures. This greatly restricts the number of geometric parameters available in design. Here, we demonstrate a polarization-insensitive metalens using otherwise anisotropic nanofins which offer additional control over the dispersion and phase of the output light. As a result, we can render a metalens achromatic and polarization-insensitive across nearly the entire visible spectrum from wavelength lambda = 460 nm to 700 nm, while maintaining diffraction-limited performance. The metalens is comprised of just a single layer of TiO2 nanofins and has a numerical aperture of 0.2 with a diameter of 26.4 mu m. The generality of our polarization-insensitive design allows it to be implemented in a plethora of other metasurface devices with applications ranging from imaging to virtual/augmented reality.
The spectral resolution and range of conventional spectrometers are typically limited by optical aberrations of their focusing elements, mainly due to chromatically induced astigmatism and an intrinsically curved focal plane. Traditional approaches to overcome this challenge require additional optical components which introduce significant bulk and design complexity to the system and prevent easy integration with portable devices. Here a single planar off-axis focusing metalens consisting of subwavelength TiO2 nanofins whose focal spots lie along a plane and undergo minimal focal spot broadening for almost 200 nm across the visible spectrum is demonstrated. This allows us to achieve a miniature aberration-corrected spectrometer with nanometer spectral resolution, while having a beam propagation distance of only 4 cm to the camera plane. This is achieved by dispersion engineering: tailoring the phase, group delay (GD) and GD dispersion of the metalens. This approach is general and can also be used to introduce customized functionalities to the metalens such as a linear dispersion in the frequency domain with minimal additional overhead.
Jumping spiders (Salticidae) rely on accurate depth perception for predation and navigation. They accomplish depth perception, despite their tiny brains, by using specialized optics. Each principal eye includes a multitiered retina that simultaneously receives multiple images with different amounts of defocus, and from these images, distance is decoded with relatively little computation. We introduce a compact depth sensor that is inspired by the jumping spider. It combines metalens optics, which modifies the phase of incident light at a subwavelength scale, with efficient computations to measure depth from image defocus. Instead of using a multitiered retina to transduce multiple simultaneous images, the sensor uses a metalens to split the light that passes through an aperture and concurrently form 2 differently defocused images at distinct regions of a single planar photosensor. We demonstrate a system that deploys a 3-mm-diameter metalens to measure depth over a 10-cm distance range, using fewer than 700 floating point operations per output pixel. Compared with previous passive depth sensors, our metalens depth sensor is compact, single-shot, and requires a small amount of computation. This integration of nanophotonics and efficient computation brings artificial depth sensing closer to being feasible on millimeter-scale, microwatts platforms such as microrobots and microsensor networks.