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Concept: Polarizer


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


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


PURPOSE: Anecdotal evidence suggests that some sunglass users prefer yellow tints for outdoor activities, such as driving, and research has suggested that such tints improve the apparent contrast and brightness of real-world objects. The aim of this study was to establish whether yellow filters resulted in objective improvements in performance for visual tasks relevant to driving. METHODS: Response times of nine young (age [mean ± SD], 31.4 ± 6.7 years) and nine older (age, [mean ± SD], 74.6 ± 4.8) adults were measured using video presentations of traffic hazards (driving hazard perception task) and a simple low-contrast grating appeared at random peripheral locations on a computer screen. Response times were compared when participants wore a yellow filter (with and without a linear polarizer) versus a neutral density filter (with and without a linear polarizer). All lens combinations were matched to have similar luminance transmittances (∼27%). RESULTS: In the driving hazard perception task, the young but not the older participants responded significantly more rapidly to hazards when wearing a yellow filter than with a luminance-matched neutral density filter (mean difference, 450 milliseconds). In the low-contrast grating task, younger participants also responded more quickly for the yellow filter condition but only when combined with a polarizer. Although response times increased with increasing stimulus eccentricity for the low-contrast grating task, for the younger participants, this slowing of response times with increased eccentricity was reduced in the presence of a yellow filter, indicating that perception of more peripheral objects may be improved by this filter combination. CONCLUSIONS: Yellow filters improve response times for younger adults for visual tasks relevant to driving.

Concepts: Better, Improve, Probability theory, Evidence, Sunglasses, Polarizer, Photographic filter, Neutral density filter


Some insects, such as Papilio blumei and Suneve coronata, are known for exhibiting polarization effects on light such as color contrast or geometrical polarization rotation by reflection on their wing scales. The photonic structures found on these species that show these properties are multilayered spherical cavities or triangular grooves which polarize the light due to multiple inner reflections. These polarization effects, in addition to the intrinsic color-mixing properties of these photonic structures, are of interest in the anti-counterfeiting field due to their invisibility to the naked eye. In this paper, we report micro-fabrication techniques to produce bio-inspired cylindrical grooves (C-grooves) and triangular grooves (V-grooves) that demonstrate the same properties. Theoretical analyses were carried out by using multi-scale simulation (MS) as well as by finite-difference time-domain (FDTD) in order to compare the polarization capability of both structures. The V-grooves show greater polarization contrast than the C-grooves, but the spectrum is specular. The C-grooves exhibit lower polarization effects but have a dispersive spectrum. In both cases, the structures show additional optical properties, such as diffraction, macroscopic color contrast under a polarizer, and contrast inversion due to geometries which contribute to their uniqueness.

Concepts: Optics, Light, Maxwell's equations, Polarization, Birefringence, Polarizer, Brewster's angle


Hyperpolarized (HP) tracers dramatically increase the sensitivity of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to monitor metabolism non-invasively and in vivo. Their production, however, requires an extra polarizing device (polarizer) whose complexity, operation and cost can exceed that of an MRI system itself. Furthermore, the lifetime of HP tracers is short and some of the enhancement is lost during transfer to the application site. Here, we present the production of HP tracers in water without an external polarizer: by Synthesis Amid the Magnet Bore, A Dramatically Enhanced Nuclear Alignment (SAMBADENA) is achieved within seconds, corresponding to a hyperpolarization of ∼20%. As transfer of the tracer is no longer required, SAMBADENA may permit a higher polarization at the time of detection at a fraction of the cost and complexity of external polarizers. This development is particularly promising in light of the recently extended portfolio of biomedically relevant para-hydrogen-tracers and may lead to new diagnostic applications.

Concepts: Optics, Nuclear magnetic resonance, Magnetic resonance imaging, Polarization, Birefringence, Hyperpolarization, Polarizer


Like many animals, humans are sensitive to the polarization of light. We can detect the angle of polarization using an entoptic phenomenon called Haidinger’s brushes, which is mediated by dichroic carotenoids in the macula lutea. While previous studies have characterized the spectral sensitivity of Haidinger’s brushes, other aspects remain unexplored. We developed a novel methodology for presenting gratings in polarization-only contrast at varying degrees of polarization in order to measure the lower limits of human polarized light detection. Participants were, on average, able to perform the task down to a threshold of 56%, with some able to go as low as 23%. This makes humans the most sensitive vertebrate tested to date. Additionally, we quantified a nonlinear relationship between presented and perceived polarization angle when an observer is presented with a rotatable polarized light field. This result confirms a previous theoretical prediction of how uniaxial corneal birefringence impacts the perception of Haidinger’s brushes. The rotational dynamics of Haidinger’s brushes were then used to calculate corneal retardance. We suggest that psychophysical experiments, based upon the perception of polarized light, are amenable to the production of affordable technologies for self-assessment and longitudinal monitoring of visual dysfunctions such as age-related macular degeneration.

Concepts: Optics, Macular degeneration, Polarization, Birefringence, Dichroism, Polarizer, Haidinger's brush


When excited with rotating linear polarized light, differently oriented fluorescent dyes emit periodic signals peaking at different times. We show that measurement of the average orientation of fluorescent dyes attached to rigid sample structures mapped to regularly defined (50 nm)(2) image nanoareas can provide subdiffraction resolution (super resolution by polarization demodulation, SPoD). Because the polarization angle range for effective excitation of an oriented molecule is rather broad and unspecific, we narrowed this range by simultaneous irradiation with a second, de-excitation, beam possessing a polarization perpendicular to the excitation beam (excitation polarization angle narrowing, ExPAN). This shortened the periodic emission flashes, allowing better discrimination between molecules or nanoareas. Our method requires neither the generation of nanometric interference structures nor the use of switchable or blinking fluorescent probes. We applied the method to standard wide-field microscopy with camera detection and to two-photon scanning microscopy, imaging the fine structural details of neuronal spines.

Concepts: Optics, Light, Phase, Dyes, Polarization, Polarizer, Brewster's angle


Metasurfaces are planar structures that locally modify the polarization, phase and amplitude of light in reflection or transmission, thus enabling lithographically patterned flat optical components with functionalities controlled by design. Transmissive metasurfaces are especially important, as most optical systems used in practice operate in transmission. Several types of transmissive metasurface have been realized, but with either low transmission efficiencies or limited control over polarization and phase. Here, we show a metasurface platform based on high-contrast dielectric elliptical nanoposts that provides complete control of polarization and phase with subwavelength spatial resolution and an experimentally measured efficiency ranging from 72% to 97%, depending on the exact design. Such complete control enables the realization of most free-space transmissive optical elements such as lenses, phase plates, wave plates, polarizers, beamsplitters, as well as polarization-switchable phase holograms and arbitrary vector beam generators using the same metamaterial platform.

Concepts: Diffraction, Optics, Fundamental physics concepts, Light, Metamaterial, Wavelength, Polarization, Polarizer


A highly stable metal-organic framework, [{Fe3(ACTBA)2}X·6DEF]n (; X = monoanion), based on trinuclear iron(iii) secondary building units connected by tetracarboxylates with an anthracene core, 2,6,9,10-tetrakis(p-carboxylatophenyl)anthracene (ACTBA), is reported. Depending on the direction of light polarisation, crystals of exhibit anisotropic optical properties with birefringence Δn = 0.3 (λ = 590 nm).

Concepts: Optics, Polarization, Dielectric, Polarizer, Crystal optics