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

Concept: Polarization


Scanning small and wide angle X-ray scattering (scanning SWAXS) experiments were performed on healthy and pathologic human bone sections. Via crystallographic tools the data were transformed into quantitative images and as such compared with circularly polarized light (CPL) microscopy images. SWAXS and CPL images allowed extracting information of the mineral nanocrystalline phase embedded, with and without preferred orientation, in the collagen fibrils, mapping local changes at sub-osteon resolution. This favorable combination has been applied for the first time to biopsies of dwarfism syndrome and Paget’s disease to shed light onto the cortical structure of natural bone in healthy and pathologic sections.

Concepts: Optics, Electromagnetic radiation, Scattering, X-ray crystallography, Polarization, Circular polarization, Linear polarization


Optical metamaterials are usually based on planarized, complex-shaped, resonant nano-inclusions. Three-dimensional geometries may provide a wider set of functionalities, including broadband chirality to manipulate circular polarization at the nanoscale, but their fabrication becomes challenging as their dimensions get smaller. Here we introduce a new paradigm for the realization of optical metamaterials, showing that three-dimensional effects may be obtained without complicated inclusions, but instead by tailoring the relative orientation within the lattice. We apply this concept to realize planarized, broadband bianisotropic metamaterials as stacked nanorod arrays with a tailored rotational twist. Because of the coupling among closely spaced twisted plasmonic metasurfaces, metamaterials realized with conventional lithography may effectively operate as three-dimensional helical structures with broadband bianisotropic optical response. The proposed concept is also shown to relax alignment requirements common in three-dimensional metamaterial designs. The realized sample constitutes an ultrathin, broadband circular polarizer that may be directly integrated within nanophotonic systems.

Concepts: Optics, Greek loanwords, Metamaterial, Polarization, Circular polarization, Polarizer, Polarimetry


Optical telecommunication employs light pulses travelling down optical fibres; in a binary format logical Ones and Zeroes are represented by the presence or absence of a light pulse in a given time slot, respectively. The fibre’s data-carrying capacity must keep up with increasing demand, but for binary coding it now approaches its limit. Alternative coding schemes beyond binary are currently hotly debated; the challenge is to mitigate detrimental effects from the fibre’s nonlinearity. Here we provide proof-of-principle that coding with solitons and soliton molecules allows to encode two bits of data per clock period. Solitons do not suffer from nonlinearity, rather, they rely on it; this endows them with greater robustness. However, they are universally considered to be restricted to binary coding. With that notion now refuted, it is warranted to rethink future systems.

Concepts: Time, Refractive index, Optical fiber, Binary numeral system, Dispersion, Vector soliton, Polarization, 0


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


The coupling between DNA molecules and quantum dots can result in impressive nonlinear optical properties. In this paper, we theoretically demonstrate the significant enhancement of Kerr coefficient of signal light using optical pump-probe technique when the pump-exciton detuning is zero, and the probe-exciton detuning is adjusted properly to the frequency of DNA vibration mode. The magnitude of optical Kerr coefficient can be tuned by modifying the intensity of the pump beam. It is shown clearly that this phenomenon cannot occur without the DNA-quantum dot coupling. The present research will lead us to know more about the anomalous nonlinear optical behaviors in the hybrid DNA-quantum dot systems, which may have potential applications in the fields such as DNA detection.

Concepts: Optics, Light, Refractive index, Polarization, Nonlinear optics, Kerr effect, Kerr-lens modelocking, Filament propagation


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


Although macrophages can be polarized to distinct phenotypes in vitro with individual ligands, in vivo they encounter multiple signals that control their varied functions in homeostasis, immunity, and disease. Here, we identify roles of Rev-erb nuclear receptors in regulating responses of mouse macrophages to complex tissue damage signals and wound repair. Rather than reinforcing a specific program of macrophage polarization, Rev-erbs repress subsets of genes that are activated by TLR ligands, IL4, TGFβ, and damage-associated molecular patterns (DAMPS). Unexpectedly, a complex damage signal promotes co-localization of NF-κB, Smad3, and Nrf2 at Rev-erb-sensitive enhancers and drives expression of genes characteristic of multiple polarization states in the same cells. Rev-erb-sensitive enhancers thereby integrate multiple damage-activated signaling pathways to promote a wound repair phenotype.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Cell nucleus, Gene expression, Evolution, Organism, Signal, Polarization


Optical fibre underpins the global communications infrastructure and has experienced an astonishing evolution over the past four decades, with current commercial systems transmitting data rates in excess of 10 Tb/s over a single fibre core. The continuation of this dramatic growth in throughput has become constrained due to a power dependent nonlinear distortion arising from a phenomenon known as the Kerr effect. The mitigation of fibre nonlinearities is an area of intense research. However, even in the absence of nonlinear distortion, the practical limit on the transmission throughput of a single fibre core is dominated by the finite signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) afforded by current state-of-the-art coherent optical transceivers. Therefore, the key to maximising the number of information bits that can be reliably transmitted over a fibre channel hinges on the simultaneous optimisation of the modulation format and code rate, based on the SNR achieved at the receiver. In this work, we use an information theoretic approach based on the mutual information and the generalised mutual information to characterise a state-of-the-art dual polarisation m-ary quadrature amplitude modulation transceiver and subsequently apply this methodology to a 15-carrier super-channel to achieve the highest throughput (1.125 Tb/s) ever recorded using a single coherent receiver.

Concepts: Optical fiber, Modulation, Polarization, Information theory, Radio, Amplitude modulation, Transmitter, Quadrature amplitude modulation


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


Gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) are most probably powered by collimated relativistic outflows (jets) from accreting black holes at cosmological distances. Bright afterglows are produced when the outflow collides with the ambient medium. Afterglow polarization directly probes the magnetic properties of the jet when measured minutes after the burst, and it probes the geometric properties of the jet and the ambient medium when measured hours to days after the burst. High values of optical polarization detected minutes after the burst of GRB 120308A indicate the presence of large-scale ordered magnetic fields originating from the central engine (the power source of the GRB). Theoretical models predict low degrees of linear polarization and no circular polarization at late times, when the energy in the original ejecta is quickly transferred to the ambient medium and propagates farther into the medium as a blast wave. Here we report the detection of circularly polarized light in the afterglow of GRB 121024A, measured 0.15 days after the burst. We show that the circular polarization is intrinsic to the afterglow and unlikely to be produced by dust scattering or plasma propagation effects. A possible explanation is to invoke anisotropic (rather than the commonly assumed isotropic) electron pitch-angle distributions, and we suggest that new models are required to produce the complex microphysics of realistic shocks in relativistic jets.

Concepts: Optics, Polarization, Circular polarization, Wave plate, Linear polarization, Elliptical polarization, Gamma-ray burst