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Concept: Birefringence


Wherever the polarization properties of a light beam are of concern, polarizers and polarizing beamsplitters (PBS) are indispensable devices in linear-, nonlinear- and quantum-optical schemes. By the very nature of their operation principle, transformation of incoming unpolarized or partially polarized beams through these devices introduces large intensity variations in the fully polarized outcoming beam(s). Such intensity fluctuations are often detrimental, particularly when light is post-processed by nonlinear crystals or other polarization-sensitive optic elements. Here we demonstrate the unexpected capability of light to self-organize its own state-of-polarization, upon propagation in optical fibers, into universal and environmentally robust states, namely right and left circular polarizations. We experimentally validate a novel polarizing device - the Omnipolarizer, which is understood as a nonlinear dual-mode polarizing optical element capable of operating in two modes - as a digital PBS and as an ideal polarizer. Switching between the two modes of operation requires changing beam’s intensity.

Concepts: Optics, Light, Electromagnetic radiation, Polarization, Birefringence, Circular polarization, Polarizer


Ecological photopollution created by artificial night lighting can alter animal behavior and lead to population declines and biodiversity loss. Polarized light pollution is a second type of photopollution that triggers water-seeking insects to ovisposit on smooth and dark man-made objects, because they simulate the polarization signatures of natural water bodies. We document a case study of the interaction of these two forms of photopollution by conducting observations and experiments near a lamp-lit bridge over the river Danube that attracts mass swarms of the mayfly Ephoron virgo away from the river to oviposit on the asphalt road of the bridge. Millions of mayflies swarmed near bridge-lights for two weeks. We found these swarms to be composed of 99% adult females performing their upstream compensatory flight and were attracted upward toward unpolarized bridge-lamp light, and away from the horizontally polarized light trail of the river. Imaging polarimetry confirmed that the asphalt surface of the bridge was strongly and horizontally polarized, providing a supernormal ovipositional cue to Ephoron virgo, while other parts of the bridge were poor polarizers of lamplight. Collectively, we confirm that Ephoron virgo is independently attracted to both unpolarized and polarized light sources, that both types of photopollution are being produced at the bridge, and that spatial patterns of swarming and oviposition are consistent with evolved behaviors being triggered maladaptively by these two types of light pollution. We suggest solutions to bridge and lighting design that should prevent or mitigate the impacts of such scenarios in the future. The detrimental impacts of such scenarios may extend beyond Ephoron virgo.

Concepts: Biodiversity, Light, Lighting, Polarization, Light pollution, Birefringence, Polarizer


The purpose of this study was to observe in vitro matured equine oocytes with an objective computerized technique which involve the use of a polarized light microscope (PLM) in addition to the subjective morphological evaluation obtained using a classic light microscope (LM). Equine cumulus-oocyte complexes (COCs, n=922) were subjected to different in vitro maturation times (24, 36, or 45 h), but only 36-h matured oocytes were analyzed using PLM. The 36-h matured oocytes that reached maturity were parthenogenetically activated to evaluate quality and meiotic competence. Average maturation percentages per session in groups 1, 2, and 3 (24-, 36- and 45-h matured oocytes, respectively) were 29.31±13.85%, 47.01±9.90%, and 36.62±5.28%, whereas the average percentages of immature oocytes per session were 28.78±20.17%, 7.83±5.51%, and 22.36±8.39%, respectively. The zona pellucida (ZP) birefringent properties were estimated and correlated with activation outcome. ZP thickness and retardance of the inner layer of the zona pellucida (IL-ZP) were significantly increased in immature oocytes compared with mature oocytes (p<0.001 and p<0.01, respectively). The comparison between parthenogenetically activated and non-activated oocytes showed a significant increase in the area and thickness of the IL-ZP in parthenogenetically activated oocytes (p<0.01). These results show that the 36-h IVM protocol allowed equine oocytes to reach maturity, and PLM observation of ZP can be used to distinguish mature and immature oocytes as well as activated and non-activated oocytes.

Concepts: Optics, Microscope, Meiosis, Microscopy, Zona pellucida, Polarization, Birefringence, Oocyte


Hierarchical control of two-dimensional (2D) molecular alignment patterns over large areas is essential for designing high-functional organic materials and devices. However, even by the most powerful current methods, dye molecules that discolor and destabilize the materials need to be doped in, complicating the process. We present a dye-free alignment patterning technique, based on a scanning wave photopolymerization (SWaP) concept, that achieves a spatial light-triggered mass flow to direct molecular order using scanning light to propagate the wavefront. This enables one to generate macroscopic, arbitrary 2D alignment patterns in a wide variety of optically transparent polymer films from various polymerizable mesogens with sufficiently high birefringence (>0.1) merely by single-step photopolymerization, without alignment layers or polarized light sources. A set of 150,000 arrays of a radial alignment pattern with a size of 27.4 μm × 27.4 μm were successfully inscribed by SWaP, in which each individual pattern is smaller by a factor of 10(4) than that achievable by conventional photoalignment methods. This dye-free inscription of microscopic, complex alignment patterns over large areas provides a new pathway for designing higher-performance optical and mechanical devices.

Concepts: Optics, Light, Electromagnetic radiation, Optical fiber, Pattern, Polarization, Birefringence, Liquid crystal


Many biophotonic structures have their spectral properties of reflection ‘tuned’ using the (zeroth-order) Bragg criteria for phase constructive interference. This is associated with a periodicity, or distribution of periodicities, parallel to the direction of illumination. The polarization properties of these reflections are, however, typically constrained by the dimensional symmetry and intrinsic dielectric properties of the biological materials. Here we report a linearly polarizing reflector in a stomatopod crustacean that consists of 6-8 layers of hollow, ovoid vesicles with principal axes of ~550 nm, ~250 nm and ~150 nm. The reflection of unpolarized normally incident light is blue/green in colour with maximum reflectance wavelength of 520 nm and a degree of polarization greater than 0.6 over most of the visible spectrum. We demonstrate that the polarizing reflection can be explained by a resonant coupling with the first-order, in-plane, Bragg harmonics. These harmonics are associated with a distribution of periodicities perpendicular to the direction of illumination, and, due to the shape-anisotropy of the vesicles, are different for each linear polarization mode. This control and tuning of the polarization of the reflection using shape-anisotropic hollow scatterers is unlike any optical structure previously described and could provide a new design pathway for polarization-tunability in man-made photonic devices.

Concepts: Optics, Fundamental physics concepts, Light, Electromagnetic radiation, Phase, Polarization, Birefringence


We have designed, fabricated, and experimentally characterized a lens for the THz regime based on artificial dielectrics. These are man-made media that mimic properties of naturally occurring dielectric media, or even manifest properties that cannot generally occur in nature. For example, the well-known dielectric property, the refractive index, which usually has a value greater than unity, can have a value less than unity in an artificial dielectric. For our lens, the artificial-dielectric medium is made up of a parallel stack of 100 μm thick metal plates that form an array of parallel-plate waveguides. The convergent lens has a plano-concave geometry, in contrast to conventional dielectric lenses. Our results demonstrate that this lens is capable of focusing a 2 cm diameter beam to a spot size of 4 mm, at the design frequency of 0.17 THz. The results further demonstrate that the overall power transmission of the lens can be better than certain conventional dielectric lenses commonly used in the THz regime. Intriguingly, we also observe that under certain conditions, the lens boundary demarcated by the discontinuous plate edges actually resembles a smooth continuous surface. These results highlight the importance of this artificial-dielectric technology for the development of future THz-wave devices.

Concepts: Optics, Fundamental physics concepts, Maxwell's equations, Electromagnetic spectrum, Metamaterial, Birefringence, Dielectric, Permittivity


A new class of photosensitive compounds generates optical anisotropy comparable to azobenzene systems upon irradiation with linearly polarized light, but, in contrast to these systems, the new photorotor system does not absorb in the visible range. High values of dichroism and birefringence are induced and in the case of LC polymers the light induced order can be amplified by self-organization.

Concepts: Optics, Electromagnetic radiation, Cosmic microwave background radiation, Polarization, Birefringence, Dichroism, Optical rotation


The cholesteric-liquid-crystalline structure, which concerns the organization of chromatin, collagen, chitin, or cellulose, is omnipresent in living matter. In technology, it is found in temperature and pressure sensors, supertwisted nematic liquid crystal displays, optical filters, reflective devices, or cosmetics. A cholesteric liquid crystal reflects light because of its helical structure. The reflection is selective - the bandwidth is limited to a few tens of nanometers and the reflectance is equal to at most 50% for unpolarized incident light, which is a consequence of the polarization-selectivity rule. These limits must be exceeded for innovative applications like polarizer-free reflective displays, broadband polarizers, optical data storage media, polarization-independent devices, stealth technologies, or smart switchable reflective windows to control solar light and heat. Novel cholesteric-liquid-crystalline architectures with the related fabrication procedures must therefore be developed. This article reviews solutions found in living matter and laboratories to broaden the bandwidth around a central reflection wavelength, do without the polarization-selectivity rule and go beyond the reflectance limit.

Concepts: Crystal, Light, Refraction, Liquid crystal display, Reflection, Birefringence, Liquid crystal, Cholesteric liquid crystal


The Nomenclature Committee of the International Society of Amyloidosis (ISA) met during the XIIIth International Symposium, May 6-10, 2012, Groningen, The Netherlands, to formulate recommendations on amyloid fibril protein nomenclature and to consider newly identified candidate amyloid fibril proteins for inclusion in the ISA Amyloid Fibril Protein Nomenclature List. The need to promote utilization of consistent and up to date terminology for both fibril chemistry and clinical classification of the resultant disease syndrome was emphasized. Amyloid fibril nomenclature is based on the chemical identity of the amyloid fibril forming protein; clinical classification of the amyloidosis should be as well. Although the importance of fibril chemistry to the disease process has been recognized for more than 40 years, to this day the literature contains clinical and histochemical designations that were used when the chemical diversity of amyloid diseases was poorly understood. Thus, the continued use of disease classifications such as familial amyloid neuropathy and familial amyloid cardiomyopathy generates confusion. An amyloid fibril protein is defined as follows: the protein must occur in body tissue deposits and exhibit both affinity for Congo red and green birefringence when Congo red stained deposits are viewed by polarization microscopy. Furthermore, the chemical identity of the protein must have been unambiguously characterized by protein sequence analysis when so is practically possible. Thus, in nearly all cases, it is insufficient to demonstrate mutation in the gene of a candidate amyloid protein; the protein itself must be identified as an amyloid fibril protein. Current ISA Amyloid Fibril Protein Nomenclature Lists of 30 human and 10 animal fibril proteins are provided together with a list of inclusion bodies that, although intracellular, exhibit some or all of the properties of the mainly extracellular amyloid fibrils.

Concepts: Protein, Cell membrane, Prion, Amyloid, Amyloidosis, Congo red, Birefringence, Peptide sequence


A set of chiral discotic phenylacetylenes have been synthesized by 3-fold Sonogashira coupling between different ethynylbenzenes and triiodobenzenes. The resultant bulk materials are fully characterized by polarized optical microscopy (POM), differential scanning calorimetry (DSC), and X-ray diffraction. The octopolar nature of the target compounds is studied by UV-vis absorption spectroscopy and hyper-Raleigh scattering in solution. Optimization of the donor-acceptor substitution yields both high hyperpolarizability values and appreciable mesomorphic properties. A simple thin film device for second harmonic generation has been prepared from the nitro-substituted liquid crystalline derivative.

Concepts: Crystal, Optics, Electromagnetic radiation, Differential scanning calorimetry, Absorption spectroscopy, Ultraviolet-visible spectroscopy, Birefringence, Liquid crystal