Direct generation of optical vortices

Mathew D. Williams, Matthew Coles, David S. Bradshaw, David L. Andrews

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A detailed scheme is established for the direct generation of optical vortices, signifying light endowed with orbital angular momentum. In contrast to common techniques based on the tailored conversion of the wave front in a conventional beam, this method provides for the direct spontaneous emission of photons with the requisite field structure. This form of optical emission results directly from the electronic relaxation of a delocalized exciton state that is supported by a ringlike array of three or more nanoscale chromophores. An analysis of the conditions leads to a general formulation revealing a requirement for the array structure to adhere to one of a restricted set of permissible symmetry groups. It is shown that the coupling between chromophores within each array leads to an energy level splitting of the exciton structure, thus providing for a specific linking of exciton phase and emission wavelength. For emission, arrays conforming to one of the given point-group families’ doubly degenerate excitons exhibit the specific phase characteristics necessary to support vortex emission. The highest order of exciton symmetry, corresponding to the maximum magnitude of electronic orbital angular momentum supported by the ring, provides for the most favored emission. The phase properties of the emission produced by the relaxation of such excitons are exhibited on plots which reveal the azimuthal phase progression around the ring, consistent with vortex emission. It is proven that emission of this kind produces electromagnetic fields that map with complete fidelity onto the phase structure of a Laguerre-Gaussian optical mode with the corresponding topological charge. The prospect of direct generation paves the way for practicable devices that need no longer rely on the modification of a conventional laser beam by a secondary optical element. Moreover, these principles hold promise for the development of a vortex laser, also based on nanoscale exciton decay, enabling the production of coherent radiation with a tailor-made helical wave front.
Original languageEnglish
Article number033837
Number of pages8
JournalPhysical Review A
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 21 Mar 2014

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