Shrinking Light: Nanoscale Optical Breakthrough Unlocks a World of Quantum Possibilities

Light Is Extremely Confined in a Nanoslit in a Coupled-Nanowire-Pair

Light is extremely confined in a nanoslit in a coupled-nanowire-pair. Credit: Zhejiang University Nanophotonics Group led by Limin Tong

Waveguiding scheme enables highly confined subnanometer optical fields.

Researchers have pioneered a novel method for confining light to subnanometer scales. This development offers promising potential for advancements in areas such as light-matter interactions and super-resolution nanoscopy.

Advancements in Light Confinement Technology

Imagine shrinking light down to the size of a tiny water molecule, unlocking a world of quantum possibilities. This has been a long-held dream in the realms of light science and technology. Recent advancements have brought us closer to achieving this incredible feat, as researchers from Zhejiang University have made groundbreaking progress in confining light to subnanometer scales.

Traditional Methods and New Discoveries

Conventionally, light localization beyond its usual diffraction limit has relied on two methods: dielectric confinement and plasmonic confinement. However, challenges such as precision fabrication and optical loss have obstructed the confinement of optical fields to sub-10 nanometer (nm) or even 1-nm levels. Now, a novel waveguiding scheme detailed on July 7 in the journal Advanced Photonics is set to harness the potential of subnanometer optical fields.

Confined Optical Field Generation Waveguiding Scheme

Waveguiding scheme to generate a sub-nm-confined optical field in a nano-slit mode. (a) Schematic illustration of the CNP waveguiding scheme. (b) 3-D plot of the cross-sectional field intensity distribution of the nano-slit mode. Credit: Yang, Zhou, et al., doi 10.1117/1.AP.5.4.046003

Consider this scenario: light, originating from a standard optical fiber, undertakes a transformative journey. It passes through a fiber taper and reaches its final destination in a coupled-nanowire-pair (CNP). Here, the light transforms into a unique nano-slit mode, creating a confined optical field that can be as minute as a fraction of a nanometer (approximately 0.3 nm). Astonishingly, this innovative approach boasts an efficiency of up to 95 percent and a high peak-to-background ratio, thus opening up an array of opportunities.

Extending the Boundaries of Nano-Exploration

The ground-breaking waveguiding scheme broadens its scope to the mid-infrared spectral range, further extending the limits of the nano-universe. Optical confinement can now reach an extraordinary scale of approximately 0.2 nm (λ/20000), which opens more avenues for exploration and discovery.

Professor Limin Tong of the Zhejiang University Nanophotonics Group notes, “Unlike previous methods, the waveguiding scheme presents itself as a linear optical system, bringing a host of advantages. It enables broadband and ultrafast pulsed operation and allows for the combination of multiple sub-nanometer optical fields. The ability to engineer spatial, spectral, and temporal sequences within a single output opens up endless possibilities.”

Potential Applications and Future Prospects

The potential applications of these breakthroughs are indeed breathtaking. The possibility of an optical field so localized that it can interact with individual molecules or atoms opens up potential for progress in areas like light–matter interactions, super-resolution nanoscopy, atom/molecule manipulation, and ultrasensitive detection. We are on the verge of a new era of discovery, where the tiniest realms of existence are now within our reach.

Reference: “Generating a sub-nanometer-confined optical field in a nanoslit waveguiding mode” by Liu Yang, Zhanke Zhou, Hao Wu, Hongliang Dang, Yuxin Yang, Jiaxin Gao, Xin Guo, Pan Wang and Limin Tong, 7 July 2023, Advanced Photonics.
DOI: 10.1117/1.AP.5.4.046003

3 Comments on "Shrinking Light: Nanoscale Optical Breakthrough Unlocks a World of Quantum Possibilities"

  1. Bao-hua ZHANG | July 19, 2023 at 6:23 am | Reply

    The formation and propagation of light are inseparable from the interaction between topological vortex fields. Although scientific research is like discerning the path and direction in the dark wilderness, mathematics has always been the beacon that guides human science on the right path and direction.

  2. Ralph Johnson | July 19, 2023 at 12:14 pm | Reply

    This instrument they have developed can bring the actions needed in developments at the subatomic understanding, including what humanity can do for the future. I would like to see more thought in the direction of using the understandings that are hear and now and enhance as the future grows.

    • Bao-hua ZHANG | July 19, 2023 at 4:23 pm | Reply

      Thank you for your comment and understanding. The comments of SciTechDaily will be wonderful because of you.

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