Vacuum consists of a bath of balanced and symmetric positive- and negative-frequency fluctuations. Media in relative motion or accelerated observers can break this symmetry and preferentially amplify negative-frequency modes as in quantum Cherenkov radiation and Unruh radiation. Here, we show the existence of a universal negative-frequency-momentum mirror symmetry in the relativistic Lorentzian transformation for electromagnetic waves. We show the connection of our discovered symmetry to parity-time (PT) symmetry in moving media and the resulting spectral singularity in vacuum fluctuation-related effects. We prove that this spectral singularity can occur in the case of two metallic plates in relative motion interacting through positive- and negative-frequency plasmonic fluctuations (negative-frequency resonance). Our work paves the way for understanding the role of PT-symmetric spectral singularities in amplifying fluctuations and motivates the search for PT symmetry in novel photonic systems.
Dipole–dipole interactions, which govern phenomena such as cooperative Lamb shifts, superradiant decay rates, Van der Waals forces and resonance energy transfer rates, are conventionally limited to the Coulombic near-field. Here we reveal a class of real-photon and virtual-photon long-range quantum electrodynamic interactions that have a singularity in media with hyperbolic dispersion. The singularity in the dipole–dipole coupling, referred to as a super-Coulombic interaction, is a result of an effective interaction distance that goes to zero in the ideal limit irrespective of the physical distance. We investigate the entire landscape of atom–atom interactions in hyperbolic media confirming the giant long-range enhancement. We also propose multiple experimental platforms to verify our predicted effect with phonon–polaritonic hexagonal boron nitride, plasmonic super-lattices and hyperbolic meta-surfaces as well. Our work paves the way for the control of cold atoms above hyperbolic meta-surfaces and the study of many-body physics with hyperbolic media.
Optical tomographic reconstruction of a three-dimensional (3D) nanoscale specimen is hindered by the axial diffraction limit, which is 2–3 times worse than the focal plane resolution. We propose and experimentally demonstrate an axial super-resolution evanescent wave tomography method that enables the use of regular evanescent wave microscopes like the total internal reflection fluorescence microscope beyond surface imaging and achieve a tomographic reconstruction with axial super-resolution. Our proposed method based on Fourier reconstruction achieves axial super-resolution by extracting information from multiple sets of 3D fluorescence images when the sample is illuminated by an evanescent wave. We propose a procedure to extract super-resolution features from the incremental penetration of an evanescent wave and support our theory by one-dimensional (along the optical axis) and 3D simulations. We validate our claims by experimentally demonstrating tomographic reconstruction of microtubules in HeLa cells with an axial resolution of ∼130 nm∼130 nm. Our method does not require any additional optical components or sample preparation. The proposed method can be combined with focal plane super-resolution techniques like stochastic optical reconstruction microscopy and can also be adapted for THz and microwave near-field tomography.
Optical metamaterials have redefined how we understand light in notable ways: from strong response to optical magnetic fields, negative refraction, fast and slow light propagation in zero index and trapping structures, to flat, thin and perfect lenses. Many rules of thumb regarding optics, such as μ = 1, now have an exception, and basic formulas, such as the Fresnel equations, have been expanded. The field of metamaterials has developed strongly over the past two decades. Leveraging structured materials systems to generate tailored response to a stimulus, it has grown to encompass research in optics, electromagnetics, acoustics and, increasingly, novel hybrid material responses. This roadmap is an effort to present emerging fronts in areas of optical metamaterials that could contribute and apply to other research communities. By anchoring each contribution in current work and prospectively discussing future potential and directions, the authors are translating the work of the field in selected areas to a wider community and offering an incentive for outside researchers to engage our community where solid links do not already exist.
Control of thermal radiation at high temperatures is vital for waste heat recovery and for high-efficiency thermophotovoltaic (TPV) conversion. Previously, structural resonances utilizing gratings, thin film resonances, metasurfaces and photonic crystals were used to spectrally control thermal emission, often requiring lithographic structuring of the surface and causing significant angle dependence. In contrast, here, we demonstrate a refractory W-HfO2 metamaterial, which controls thermal emission through an engineered dielectric response function. The epsilon-near-zero frequency of a metamaterial and the connected optical topological transition (OTT) are adjusted to selectively enhance and suppress the thermal emission in the near-infrared spectrum, crucial for improved TPV efficiency. The near-omnidirectional and spectrally selective emitter is obtained as the emission changes due to material properties and not due to resonances or interference effects, marking a paradigm shift in thermal engineering approaches. We experimentally demonstrate the OTT in a thermally stable metamaterial at high temperatures of 1,000 °C.
A major waste byproduct of oil sands in situ extraction is oil sands tailings, which are a mixture of water, clay, and residual bitumen. These tailings represent a huge ecological footprint in the form of tailings ponds, which not only render large land areas unusable but also prevent reuse of water. The slow dewatering of the tailings ponds poses a major challenge to the industry. The presence of complex inorganic–organic bitumen–clay mixtures in these tailings contributes to this problem. Hence, understanding the nature of the bitumen–clay association and the effect of bitumen on clay particle–particle interactions is important for the development of more effective chemicals or processes to accelerate particle aggregation and sedimentation during dewatering. Previous studies that investigate these interactions used techniques that are sensitive only toward inorganic clay but not sensitive towards organic bitumen. Here, we use a high-resolution total internal reflection fluorescence (TIRF) microscopy to help identify the accurate location and distribution of bitumen in mature fine tailings (MFT) samples. We report the first adaptation of TIRF beyond cell biology for visualization of bitumen and its interaction with clay. The high signal-to-noise ratio of TIRF microscopy and a high contrast between the clay and residual bitumen provide images that reveal a wealth of information about the bitumen coverage on clay as well as clay–clay aggregates and how the bitumen positions itself within these aggregates. These images confirm the presence of hydrophobic fine clay agglomerates along with the hydrophilic clay particles in MFT. It is also observed that bitumen coats clay particles, bridges clay agglomerates, and is mostly absent as free bitumen in the bulk of the MFT sample. Our work paves the way for the use of nanophotonic tools in oil sands imaging and provides strategic suggestions for the development of better methods for clay sedimentation and bitumen recovery.
Evanescent electromagnetic waves possess spin-momentum locking, where the direction of propagation (momentum) is locked to the inherent polarization of the wave (transverse spin). We study the optical forces arising from this universal phenomenon and show that the fundamental origin of recently reported non-trivial optical chiral forces is spin-momentum locking. For evanescent waves, we show that the direction of energy flow, the direction of decay, and the direction of spin follow a right hand rule for three different cases of total internal reflection, surface plasmon polaritons, and HE11 mode of an optical fiber. Furthermore, we explain how the recently reported phenomena of lateral optical force on chiral and achiral particles are caused by the transverse spin of the evanescent field and the spin-momentum locking phenomenon. Finally, we propose an experiment to identify the unique lateral forces arising from the transverse spin in the optical fiber and point to fundamental differences of the spin density from the well-known orbital angular momentum of light. Our work presents a unified view on spin-momentum locking and how it affects optical forces on chiral and achiral particles.
We show the existence of an inherent property of evanescent electromagnetic waves: spin-momentum locking, where the direction of momentum fundamentally locks the polarization of the wave. We trace the ultimate origin of this phenomenon to complex dispersion and causality requirements on evanescent waves. We demonstrate that every case of evanescent waves in total internal reflection (TIR), surface states, and optical fibers/waveguides possesses this intrinsic spin-momentum locking. We also introduce a universal right-handed triplet consisting of momentum, decay, and spin for evanescent waves. We derive the Stokes parameters for evanescent waves, which reveal an intriguing result—every fast decaying evanescent wave is inherently circularly polarized with its handedness tied to the direction of propagation. We also show the existence of a fundamental angle associated with TIR such that propagating waves locally inherit perfect circular polarized characteristics from the evanescent wave. This circular TIR condition occurs if and only if the ratio of permittivities of the two dielectric media exceeds the golden ratio. Our work leads to a unified understanding of this spin-momentum locking in various nanophotonic experiments and sheds light on the electromagnetic analogy with the quantum spin-Hall state for electrons.
The ideal material for nanophotonic applications will have a large refractive index at optical frequencies, respond to both the electric and magnetic fields of light, support large optical chirality and anisotropy, confine and guide light at the nanoscale, and be able to modify the phase and amplitude of incoming radiation in a fraction of a wavelength. Artificial electromagnetic media, or metamaterials, based on metallic or polar dielectric nanostructures can provide many of these properties by coupling light to free electrons (plasmons) or phonons (phonon polaritons), respectively, but at the inevitable cost of significant energy dissipation and reduced device efficiency. Recently, however, there has been a shift in the approach to nanophotonics. Low-loss electromagnetic responses covering all four quadrants of possible permittivities and permeabilities have been achieved using completely transparent and high-refractive-index dielectric building blocks. Moreover, an emerging class of all-dielectric metamaterials consisting of anisotropic crystals has been shown to support large refractive index contrast between orthogonal polarizations of light. These advances have revived the exciting prospect of integrating exotic electromagnetic effects in practical photonic devices, to achieve, for example, ultrathin and efficient optical elements, and realize the long-standing goal of subdiffraction confinement and guiding of light without metals. In this Review, we present a broad outline of the whole range of electromagnetic effects observed using all-dielectric metamaterials: high-refractive-index nanoresonators, metasurfaces, zero-index metamaterials and anisotropic metamaterials. Finally, we discuss current challenges and future goals for the field at the intersection with quantum, thermal and silicon photonics, as well as biomimetic metasurfaces.
We ask the question, what are the ideal characteristics of a near-field thermophotovoltaic cell? Our search leads us to a reformulation of near-field radiative heat transfer in terms of the joint density of electronic states of the emitter-absorber pair in the thermophotovoltaic system. This form reveals that semiconducting materials with narrowband absorption spectra are critical to the energy-conversion efficiency. This essential feature is unavailable in conventional bulk semiconductor cells but can be obtained using low-dimensional materials. Our results show that the presence of matched van Hove singularities resulting from quantum confinement in the emitter and absorber of a thermophotovoltaic cell boosts both the magnitude and spectral selectivity of radiative heat transfer, dramatically improving energy-conversion efficiency. We provide a model near-field thermophotovoltaic system design making use of this idea by employing the van Hove singularities present in carbon nanotubes. Shockley-Queisser analysis shows that the predicted heat transfer characteristics of this model device are fundamentally better than existing thermophotovoltaic designs. Our work paves the way for the use of quantum dots, quantum wells, two-dimensional semiconductors, semiconductor nanowires, and carbon nanotubes as future materials for thermophotovoltaic cells.