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

Concept: Refraction


We have developed a pen and writing tablet for use by subjects during fMRI scanning. The pen consists of two jacketed, multi-mode optical fibers routed to the tip of a hollowed-out ball-point pen. The pen has been further modified by addition of a plastic plate to maintain a perpendicular pen-tablet orientation. The tablet is simply a non-metallic frame holding a paper print of continuously varying color gradients. The optical fibers are routed out of the MRI bore to a light-tight box in an adjacent control room. Within the box, light from a high intensity LED is coupled into one of the fibers, while the other fiber abuts a color sensor. Light from the LED exits the pen tip, illuminating a small spot on the tablet, and the resulting reflected light is routed to the color sensor. Given a lookup table of position for each color on the tablet, the coordinates of the pen on the tablet may be displayed and digitized in real-time. While simple and inexpensive, the system achieves sufficient resolution to grade writing tasks testing dysgraphic and dyslexic phenomena.

Concepts: Light, Refraction, Optical fiber, Writing, Dyslexia, Learning disability, Pen, Dysgraphia


Background: Refractive errors (RE) are the most common cause of avoidable visual impairment in children. But benefits of visual aids, which are means for correcting RE, depend on the compliance of visual aids by end users. Aim: To study the compliance of spectacle wear among rural school children in Pune district as part of the sarva siksha abhiyan (education for all scheme) after 6 - 12 months of providing free spectacles. Settings and Design: Cross-sectional follow-up study of rural secondary school children in western India. Materials and Methods: The students were examined by a team of optometrists who collected the demographic details, observed if the child was wearing the spectacles, and performed an ocular examination. The students were asked to give reasons for non-wear in a closed-ended questionnaire. Statistical Analysis: Chi-square test and multiple logistic regression used for data analysis. Results: Of the 2312 students who were dispensed spectacles in 2009, 1018 were re-examined in 2010. 523 students (51.4%) were female, the mean age was 12.1 years 300 (29.5%) were wearing their spectacles, 492 (68.5%) students claimed to have them at home while 211 (29.4%) reported not having them at all. Compliance of spectacle wear was positively associated to the magnitude of refractive error (P < 0.001), father's education (P = 0.016), female sex (P = 0.029) and negatively associated to the visual acuity of the better eye (P < 0.001) and area of residence (P < 0.0001). Of those that were examined and found to be myopic (N = 499), 220 (44%) wore their spectacles to examination. Factors associated with compliance to spectacle usage in the myopic population included increasing refractive error (P < 0.001), worsening visual acuity (P < 0.001), and higher academic performance (P < 0.001). The causes for not wearing spectacles were 'lost spectacles' 67(9.3%), 'broken spectacles' 125 (17.4%), 'forgot spectacles at home' 117 (16.3%), 'uses spectacles sometimes' 109 (15.2%), 'teased about spectacles' 142 (19.8%) and 'do not like the spectacles' 86 (12%). Conclusion: Spectacle compliance was poor amongst school children in rural Pune; many having significant vision loss as a result.

Concepts: Regression analysis, Refraction, Visual acuity, Ophthalmology, Myopia, Refractive error, Visual impairment, Glasses


Studies on the dynamics of holographic pattern formation in photosensitive polymers, gaining deeper insight into the specific material transformations, are essential for improvements in holographic recording as well as in integrated optics. Here we investigate the kinetics of volume hologram formation in an organic cationic ring-opening polymerization system. The time evolution of the grating strength and the grating phase is presented. We found two steps of growth, separated by a depletion of the light diffraction. Capable to explore this growing behavior, a transition-theory of the refractive index contrast is established. Accordingly the growth curves appear to be ruled by the interplay of polymerization and diffusion. Hence the grating formation mechanisms can be qualified as competing effects regarding the contribution to the refractive index change. We investigate the influence of the preparation and exposure procedure on the transition and consider the usability for integrated wave guide functions.

Concepts: Diffraction, Optics, Fundamental physics concepts, Light, Refraction, Refractive index, Wave, Diffraction grating


To examine the prevalence of refractive errors and prevalence and causes of vision loss among preschool and school children in East China.

Concepts: Refraction, Vision, Visual perception, Visual acuity, Ophthalmology, Refractive error, Eye care professional, Pinhole occluder


Collisions of excitation pulses in dissipative systems lead usually to their annihilation. In this paper, we report electrochemical experiments exhibiting more complex pulse interaction with collision survival and pulse splitting, phenomena that have rarely been observed experimentally and are only poorly understood theoretically. Using spatially resolved in-situ Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) in the attenuated total reflection configuration, we monitored reaction pulses during the electrochemical oxidation of CO on Pt thin film electrodes in a flow cell. The system forms quasi-1d pulses that align parallel to the flow and propagate perpendicular to it. The pulses split once in a while, generating a second solitary wave in the backward moving direction. Upon collision, the waves penetrate each other in a soliton-like manner. These unusual pulse dynamics could be reproduced with a 3-component reaction-diffusion-migration model with two inhibitor species, one of them exhibiting a long-range spatial coupling. The simulations shed light on existence criteria of such dissipative solitons.

Concepts: Spectroscopy, Light, Refraction, Electrochemistry, Fourier transform, Electrochemical cell, Infrared spectroscopy, Fourier transform spectroscopy


The Saharan silver ant Cataglyphis bombycina is one of the terrestrial living organisms best adapted to tolerate high temperatures. It has recently been shown that the hairs covering the ant’s dorsal body part are responsible for its silvery appearance. The hairs have a triangular cross-section with two corrugated surfaces allowing a high optical reflection in the visible and near-infrared (NIR) range of the spectrum while maximizing heat emissivity in the mid-infrared (MIR). Those two effects account for remarkable thermoregulatory properties, enabling the ant to maintain a lower thermal steady state and to cope with the high temperature of its natural habitat. In this paper, we further investigate how geometrical optical and high reflection properties account for the bright silver color of C. bombycina. Using optical ray-tracing models and attenuated total reflection (ATR) experiments, we show that, for a large range of incidence angles, total internal reflection (TIR) conditions are satisfied on the basal face of each hair for light entering and exiting through its upper faces. The reflection properties of the hairs are further enhanced by the presence of the corrugated surface, giving them an almost total specular reflectance for most incidence angles. We also show that hairs provide an almost 10-fold increase in light reflection, and we confirm experimentally that they are responsible for a lower internal body temperature under incident sunlight. Overall, this study improves our understanding of the optical mechanisms responsible for the silver color of C. bombycina and the remarkable thermoregulatory properties of the hair coat covering the ant’s body.

Concepts: Light, Refraction, Temperature, Thermodynamics, Reflection, Black body, Geometrical optics, Fresnel equations


Recently, a great deal of interest has been re-emerged on the possibility to manipulate surface waves, in particular, towards the THz and optical regime. Both concepts of Transformation Optics (TO) and metamaterials have been regarded as one of key enablers for such applications in applied electromagnetics. In this paper, we experimentally demonstrate for the first time a dielectric surface wave cloak from engineered gradient index materials to illustrate the possibility of using nanocomposites to control surface wave propagation through advanced additive manufacturing. The device is designed analytically and validated through numerical simulations and measurements, showing good agreement and performance as an effective surface wave cloak. The underlying design approach has much wider applications, which span from microwave to optics for the control of surface plasmon polaritons (SPPs) and radiation of nanoantennas.

Concepts: Optics, Fundamental physics concepts, Light, Refraction, Refractive index, Electromagnetic radiation, Optical fiber, Metamaterial


Metamaterial-based optical cloaks have thus far used volumetric distribution of the material properties to gradually bend light and thereby obscure the cloaked region. Hence, they are bulky and hard to scale up and, more critically, typical carpet cloaks introduce unnecessary phase shifts in the reflected light, making the cloaks detectable. Here, we demonstrate experimentally an ultrathin invisibility skin cloak wrapped over an object. This skin cloak conceals a three-dimensional arbitrarily shaped object by complete restoration of the phase of the reflected light at 730-nanometer wavelength. The skin cloak comprises a metasurface with distributed phase shifts rerouting light and rendering the object invisible. In contrast to bulky cloaks with volumetric index variation, our device is only 80 nanometer (about one-ninth of the wavelength) thick and potentially scalable for hiding macroscopic objects.

Concepts: Fundamental physics concepts, Light, Refraction, Electromagnetic radiation, Visible spectrum, Invisibility, Concealment, Cloak


Arctic reindeer experience extreme changes in environmental light from continuous summer daylight to continuous winter darkness. Here, we show that they may have a unique mechanism to cope with winter darkness by changing the wavelength reflection from their tapetum lucidum (TL). In summer, it is golden with most light reflected back directly through the retina, whereas in winter it is deep blue with less light reflected out of the eye. The blue reflection in winter is associated with significantly increased retinal sensitivity compared with summer animals. The wavelength of reflection depends on TL collagen spacing, with reduced spacing resulting in shorter wavelengths, which we confirmed in summer and winter animals. Winter animals have significantly increased intra-ocular pressure, probably produced by permanent pupil dilation blocking ocular drainage. This may explain the collagen compression. The resulting shift to a blue reflection may scatter light through photoreceptors rather than directly reflecting it, resulting in elevated retinal sensitivity via increased photon capture. This is, to our knowledge, the first description of a retinal structural adaptation to seasonal changes in environmental light. Increased sensitivity occurs at the cost of reduced acuity, but may be an important adaptation in reindeer to detect moving predators in the dark Arctic winter.

Concepts: Fundamental physics concepts, Light, Refraction, Electromagnetic radiation, Eye, Wavelength, Season, Reflection


The wings of the black butterfly, Pachliopta aristolochiae, are covered by micro- and nanostructured scales that harvest sunlight over a wide spectral and angular range. Considering that these properties are particularly attractive for photovoltaic applications, we analyze the contribution of these micro- and nanostructures, focusing on the structural disorder observed in the wing scales. In addition to microspectroscopy experiments, we conduct three-dimensional optical simulations of the exact scale structure. On the basis of these results, we design nanostructured thin photovoltaic absorbers of disordered nanoholes, which combine efficient light in-coupling and light-trapping properties together with a high angular robustness. Finally, inspired by the phase separation mechanism of self-assembled biophotonic nanostructures, we fabricate these bioinspired absorbers using a scalable, self-assembly patterning technique based on the phase separation of binary polymer mixture. The nanopatterned absorbers achieve a relative integrated absorption increase of 90% at a normal incident angle of light to as high as 200% at large incident angles, demonstrating the potential of black butterfly structures for light-harvesting purposes in thin-film solar cells.

Concepts: Light, Structure, Refraction, Solar cell, Photovoltaics, Dye-sensitized solar cell, Thin film solar cell, Angle