Groundbreaking efforts by physicists have successfully developed a mechanism for modulating electromagnetic spin on metasurfaces, paving the way to meet the data storage and transfer demands of our ever-growing digital age. This breakthrough might ultimately result in future data systems using binary photon spin for efficient encoding and information manipulation.
The idea of a fridge that independently handles grocery shopping and notifies you about expired food might feel like an exciting peek into the near future. Yet, the less enticing aspect of the Internet of Things (IoT) pertains to the massive amount of data it will generate, requiring its storage and transmission across different locations. Regardless of its remoteness, every cloud server physically resides somewhere, and data has to travel from there to other places, including within the server itself. This data movement might potentially pose a considerable obstacle to efficient data processing.
In the same way, the growing omnipresence of artificial intelligence necessitates substantial data transfer. Emerging technologies like blockchain, growing media consumption, and virtual reality all contribute to an escalating wave of error alerts and notifications pushing us to enhance our storage space and data transmission bandwidth.
Spintronics, an area of study focused on electron spin properties, holds the potential to radically transform data storage and transmission by introducing novel memory devices capable of more efficient data storage. In a similar vein, photonics, if controllable, can provide superior capacity to traditional technologies for encoding information on light photons through their polarization, akin to the spin for electrons.
In a study published in Nature Nanotechnology, physicists from TMOS, the ARC Centre of Excellence for Transformative Meta-Optical Systems, including Associate Investigators from the City University of New York, the Australian National University, and the Airforce Research Laboratory, introduced a novel method for creating metasurfaces. This technique allows for the manipulation of electromagnetic spin by creating a new type of photonic mode within an innovative Dirac-like waveguide, enhancing previous research into low-loss information transmission that employs signal transmission along topological interfaces.
Typically, topological waveguides are constructed with abrupt edges among various interfaces, forming boundary modes—electromagnetic waves behaving differently at edges than across the material’s bulk. Though useful in many aspects, these boundary modes possess a singular spin direction and lack control over radiation.
Prof. Alexander B. Khanikaev and his team embarked on a unique approach towards metasurface interfaces, smoothing out the boundaries by gradually shifting patterns within the metasurface slab. Instead of discrete shapes juxtaposed, they made minor alterations to the design— a pattern of holes forming repeating hexagons—so the shapes merge gradually. This resulted in entirely new electromagnetic wave modes not previously observed in a metasurface, exhibiting exciting radiative properties. At a single frequency, two modes with different spins could coexist, one radiating more than the other. By targeting the metasurface with a circularly polarized laser, Kiriushechkina and her team could selectively detect a specific mode spin, as demonstrated in the laboratory where each mode propagated different lengths when excited.
This approach could soon facilitate independent control of each mode’s spin, thus enabling a binary degree of freedom. This holds immense potential for the field of spin-photonics and could lead to the development of data storage systems employing binary photon spin to encode and manipulate information.
Co-first author Dr. Daria Smirnova states, “The proof-of-concept experiment definitively validated our theoretical findings and modeling. Interestingly, the effect can be explained by combining the Dirac formalism with useful electrodynamics to describe the radiative nature of the designed modes.”
Khanikaev expresses, “The ability to engineer a binary spin-like structure of light on a chip and to manipulate it on demand presents truly exciting opportunities for information encoding, especially quantum information. In collaboration with our colleagues from TMOS and AFRL, our team is currently developing quantum interconnects based on such photonic spin, as well as working on elementary quantum logic operations on a silicon photonic chip. Hence, we believe that, in the long term, integrated Dirac photonic systems may serve as a viable platform for integrated quantum photonics.”
Dragomir Neshev, the TMOS Centre Director, adds, “This cross-institutional collaboration has significantly advanced the field of meta-optics. It is an exceptional accomplishment and a prime example of the role Centres of Excellence play in facilitating the exchange of knowledge and expertise beyond the reach of an individual researcher’s network. I’m eager to see the next developments from this collaborative team.”
Reference: “Spin-dependent properties of optical modes guided by adiabatic trapping potentials in photonic Dirac metasurfaces” by Svetlana Kiriushechkina, Anton Vakulenko, Daria Smirnova, Sriram Guddala, Yuma Kawaguchi, Filipp Komissarenko, Monica Allen, Jeffery Allen and Alexander B. Khanikaev, 27 April 2023, Nature Nanotechnology.
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Electromagnetic Spin Manipulation
What is the main discovery of the physicists from TMOS?
The physicists from TMOS have developed a new method to engineer electromagnetic spin on metasurfaces. By creating a new type of photonic mode within an innovative Dirac-like waveguide, they have advanced research into efficient and low-loss information transfer.
How does this discovery impact the future of data storage and transfer?
This discovery opens up significant opportunities for the field of spin-photonics. It could potentially lead to the development of data storage systems that use binary photon spin to encode and manipulate information, revolutionizing the way data is stored and transferred in the digital era.
What is the role of Spintronics and Photonics in this research?
Spintronics, which explores the spin properties of electrons, and Photonics, which focuses on encoding information on light photons through their polarization, are two crucial fields that this research is based upon. The study aims to manipulate the electromagnetic spin similar to the spin for electrons, which can potentially revolutionize data storage and transfer.
Who collaborated on this research?
This research was a collaborative effort by physicists from TMOS, the ARC Centre of Excellence for Transformative Meta-Optical Systems, and Associate Investigators from the City University of New York, the Australian National University, and the Airforce Research Laboratory.
What does the new method for designing metasurfaces involve?
The new method involves smoothing the boundaries between different metasurface interfaces by patterning a gradual shift into the metasurface slab. This results in the generation of entirely new modes of the electromagnetic wave with exciting radiative properties.
What are the future applications of this research?
In the future, this research can lead to the independent control of the spin of different modes of electromagnetic waves. This would create a binary degree of freedom, opening up opportunities for the field of spin-photonics and the development of data storage systems using binary photon spin. Additionally, it has potential applications in the development of integrated quantum photonics systems.
More about Electromagnetic Spin Manipulation
- TMOS, the ARC Centre of Excellence for Transformative Meta-Optical Systems
- City University of New York
- Australian National University
- Airforce Research Laboratory
- Nature Nanotechnology Journal
- Information on Spintronics
- Understanding Photonics
- What is a Metasurface?