Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Coherence


Ultra-high power (exceeding the self-focusing threshold by more than three orders of magnitude) light beams from ground-based laser systems may find applications in space-debris cleaning. The propagation of such powerful laser beams through the atmosphere reveals many novel interesting features compared to traditional light self-focusing. It is demonstrated here that for the relevant laser parameters, when the thickness of the atmosphere is much shorter than the focusing length (that is, of the orbit scale), the beam transit through the atmosphere in lowest order produces phase distortion only. This means that by using adaptive optics it may be possible to eliminate the impact of self-focusing in the atmosphere on the laser beam. The area of applicability of the proposed “thin window” model is broader than the specific physical problem considered here. For instance, it might find applications in femtosecond laser material processing.

Concepts: Quantum mechanics, Optics, Light, Laser, Coherence, Stimulated emission, Nonlinear optics, Light beam


To report a case of persistent retinal toxicity associated with a high dose of sildenafil citrate intake.

Concepts: Photon, Optics, Coherence, Retina, Mirror, Citrates, Wavefront, Adaptive optics


High-resolution imaging of densely connected samples such as pathology slides using digital in-line holographic microscopy requires the acquisition of several holograms, e.g., at >6-8 different sample-to-sensor distances, to achieve robust phase recovery and coherent imaging of specimen. Reducing the number of these holographic measurements would normally result in reconstruction artifacts and loss of image quality, which would be detrimental especially for biomedical and diagnostics-related applications. Inspired by the fact that most natural images are sparse in some domain, here we introduce a sparsity-based phase reconstruction technique implemented in wavelet domain to achieve at least 2-fold reduction in the number of holographic measurements for coherent imaging of densely connected samples with minimal impact on the reconstructed image quality, quantified using a structural similarity index. We demonstrated the success of this approach by imaging Papanicolaou smears and breast cancer tissue slides over a large field-of-view of ~20 mm(2) using 2 in-line holograms that are acquired at different sample-to-sensor distances and processed using sparsity-based multi-height phase recovery. This new phase recovery approach that makes use of sparsity can also be extended to other coherent imaging schemes, involving e.g., multiple illumination angles or wavelengths to increase the throughput and speed of coherent imaging.

Concepts: Cancer, Breast cancer, Diffraction, Coherence, Holography, IMAGE, Image processing, Interferometric microscopy



Acoustic holographic rendering in complete analogy with optical holography are useful for various applications, ranging from multi-focal lensing, multiplexed sensing and synthesizing three-dimensional complex sound fields. Conventional approaches rely on a large number of active transducers and phase shifting circuits. In this paper we show that by using passive metamaterials as subwavelength pixels, holographic rendering can be achieved without cumbersome circuitry and with only a single transducer, thus significantly reducing system complexity. Such metamaterial-based holograms can serve as versatile platforms for various advanced acoustic wave manipulation and signal modulation, leading to new possibilities in acoustic sensing, energy deposition and medical diagnostic imaging.

Concepts: Diffraction, Optics, Physics, Coherence, Wave, Phase, Modulation, Holography


Holography has extremely extensive applications in conventional optical instruments spanning optical microscopy and imaging, three-dimensional displays and metrology. To integrate holography with modern low-dimensional electronic devices, holograms need to be thinned to a nanometric scale. However, to keep a pronounced phase shift modulation, the thickness of holograms has been generally limited to the optical wavelength scale, which hinders their integration with ultrathin electronic devices. Here, we break this limit and achieve 60 nm holograms using a topological insulator material. We discover that nanometric topological insulator thin films act as an intrinsic optical resonant cavity due to the unequal refractive indices in their metallic surfaces and bulk. The resonant cavity leads to enhancement of phase shifts and thus the holographic imaging. Our work paves a way towards integrating holography with flat electronic devices for optical imaging, data storage and information security.

Concepts: Diffraction, Refraction, Refractive index, Coherence, Integral, Wave, Modulation, Interferometric microscopy


Non-invasive optical imaging techniques, such as optical coherence tomography, are essential diagnostic tools in many disciplines, from the life sciences to nanotechnology. However, present methods are not able to image through opaque layers that scatter all the incident light. Even a very thin layer of a scattering material can appear opaque and hide any objects behind it. Although great progress has been made recently with methods such as ghost imaging and wavefront shaping, present procedures are still invasive because they require either a detector or a nonlinear material to be placed behind the scattering layer. Here we report an optical method that allows non-invasive imaging of a fluorescent object that is completely hidden behind an opaque scattering layer. We illuminate the object with laser light that has passed through the scattering layer. We scan the angle of incidence of the laser beam and detect the total fluorescence of the object from the front. From the detected signal, we obtain the image of the hidden object using an iterative algorithm. As a proof of concept, we retrieve a detailed image of a fluorescent object, comparable in size (50 micrometres) to a typical human cell, hidden 6 millimetres behind an opaque optical diffuser, and an image of a complex biological sample enclosed between two opaque screens. This approach to non-invasive imaging through strongly scattering media can be generalized to other contrast mechanisms and geometries.

Concepts: Ultraviolet, Optics, Light, Optical fiber, Laser, Medical imaging, Coherence, Stimulated emission


Metallic components such as plasmonic gratings and plasmonic lenses are routinely used to convert free-space beams into propagating surface plasmon polaritons and vice versa. This generation of couplers handles relatively simple light beams, such as plane waves or Gaussian beams. Here we present a powerful generalization of this strategy to more complex wavefronts, such as vortex beams that carry orbital angular momentum, also known as topological charge. This approach is based on the principle of holography: the coupler is designed as the interference pattern of the incident vortex beam and focused surface plasmon polaritons. We have integrated these holographic plasmonic interfaces into commercial silicon photodiodes, and demonstrated that such devices can selectively detect the orbital angular momentum of light. This holographic approach is very general and can be used to selectively couple free-space beams into any type of surface wave, such as focused surface plasmon polaritons and plasmonic Airy beams.

Concepts: Diffraction, Quantum mechanics, Angular momentum, Light, Coherence, Wave, Surface plasmon resonance, Diffraction grating


With the advent of confocal microscopy and optical coherence tomography, high-resolution multimodal imaging of the retina and optic nerve head can now be obtained routinely, providing new diagnostic clues in a variety of neuro-ophthalmological conditions. In this review, we provide an overview of these imaging advances and their clinical applications.

Concepts: Photon, Optics, Coherence, Microscope, Retina, Optical coherence tomography, Optic nerve


Optical interferometry has empowered an impressive variety of biosensing and medical imaging techniques. A widely held assumption is that devices based on optical interferometry require coherent light to generate a precise optical signature in response to an analyte. Here we disprove that assumption. By directly embedding light emitters into subwavelength cavities of plasmonic interferometers, we demonstrate coherent generation of surface plasmons even when light with extremely low degrees of spatial and temporal coherence is employed. This surprising finding enables novel sensor designs with cheaper and smaller light sources, and consequently increases accessibility to a variety of analytes, such as biomarkers in physiological fluids, or even airborne nanoparticles. Furthermore, these nanosensors can now be arranged along open detection surfaces, and in dense arrays, accelerating the rate of parallel target screening used in drug discovery, among other high volume and high sensitivity applications.

Concepts: Electron, Optics, Laser, Medical imaging, Coherence, Nanotechnology, Surface plasmon resonance, Interferometry