P. Shekhar, M. Malac, V. Gaind, N. Dalili, A. Meldrum, and Z. Jacob, “Momentum-Resolved Electron Energy Loss Spectroscopy for Mapping the Photonic Density of States”, ACS Photonics, vol. 4, no. 4, pp. 1009–1014, 2017.

Strong nanoscale light–matter interaction is often accompanied by ultraconfined photonic modes and large momentum polaritons existing far beyond the light cone. A direct probe of such phenomena is difficult due to the momentum mismatch of these modes with free space light, however, fast electron probes can reveal the fundamental quantum and spatially dispersive behavior of these excitations. Here, we use momentum-resolved electron energy loss spectroscopy (q-EELS) in a transmission electron microscope to explore the optical response of plasmonic thin films including momentum transfer up to wavevectors (q) significantly exceeding the light line wave vector. We show close agreement between experimental q-EELS maps, theoretical simulations of fast electrons passing through thin films and the momentum-resolved photonic density of states (q-PDOS) dispersion. Although a direct link between q-EELS and the q-PDOS exists for an infinite medium, here we show fundamental differences between q-EELS measurements and the q-PDOS that must be taken into consideration for realistic finite structures with no translational invariance along the direction of electron motion. Our work paves the way for using q-EELS as the preeminent tool for mapping the q-PDOS of exotic phenomena with large momenta (high-q) such as hyperbolic polaritons and spatially dispersive plasmons.

See also: Photonics
S. Pendharker et al., “Thermal graphene metamaterials and epsilon-near-zero high temperature plasmonics”, Journal of Optics, vol. 19, no. 5, 2017.

The key feature of a thermophotovoltaic (TPV) emitter is the enhancement of thermal emission corresponding to energies just above the bandgap of the absorbing photovoltaic cell and simultaneous suppression of thermal emission below the bandgap. We show here that a single layer plasmonic coating can perform this task with high efficiency. Our key design principle involves tuning the epsilon-near-zero frequency (plasma frequency) of the metal acting as a thermal emitter to the electronic bandgap of the semiconducting cell. This approach utilizes the change in the reflectivity of a metal near its plasma frequency (epsilon-near-zero frequency) to lead to spectrally selective thermal emission, and can be adapted to large area coatings using high temperature plasmonic materials. We provide a detailed analysis of the spectral and angular performance of high temperature plasmonic coatings as TPV emitters. We show the potential of such high temperature plasmonic thermal emitter coatings (p-TECs) for narrowband near-field thermal emission. We also show the enhancement of near-surface energy density in graphene-multilayer thermal metamaterials due to a topological transition at an effective epsilon-near-zero frequency. This opens up spectrally selective thermal emission from graphene multilayers in the infrared frequency regime. Our design paves the way for the development of single layer p-TECs and graphene multilayers for spectrally selective radiative heat transfer applications.

S. Pendharker, Y. Guo, F. Khosravi, and Z. Jacob, “PT-symmetric spectral singularity and negative-frequency resonance”, PHYSICAL REVIEW A, vol. 95, no. 3, 2017.

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.

See also: Photonics, Quantum
C. L. Cortes and Z. Jacob, “Super-Coulombic atom–atom interactions in hyperbolic media”, Nature Communications, vol. 8, 2017.

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.


S. Pendharker, S. S. Shende, W. Newman, S. Ogg, N. Nazemifard, and Z. Jacob, “Axial super-resolution evanescent wave tomography”, Optics Letters, vol. 41, no. 23, pp. 5499–5502, 2016.

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.


A. M. Urbas, Z. Jacob, and et. al., “Roadmap on optical metamaterials”, Journal of Optics, vol. 18, no. 9, 2016.

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.

S. S. Shende, S. Pendharker, Z. Jacob, and N. Nazemifard, “Total internal reflection fluorescence microscopy to investigate the distribution of residual bitumen in oil sands tailings”, ACS Energy and Fuels, vol. 30, 2016.

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.

F. Kalhor, T. Thundat, and Z. Jacob, “Universal spin-momentum locked optical forces”, Applied Physics Letters, vol. 108, 2016.

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.

See also: Spin, Photonics
T. Van Mechelan and Z. Jacob, “Universal spin-momentum locking of evanescent waves”, Optica, vol. 3, no. 2, pp. 118–126, 2016.

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.

See also: Spin, Photonics