Monday, November 29, 1999

Boffins refine ways to bend light round corners

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London, June 18 (ANI) Israeli scientists have demonstrated new ways to generate and control "Airy beams"."Airy beams" are named after English astronomer Sir George Biddell Airy, who studied the parabolic trajectories of light in rainbows, and were first created at the University of Central Florida.Now Prof. Ady Arie and his graduate students Tal Ellenbogen, Noa Voloch-Bloch, Ayelet Ganany-Padowicz and Ido Dolev of Tel Aviv University's Faculty of Engineering have refined ways to produce and manipulate Airy beams.Employing new algorithms and special non-linear optical crystals, their research is reported in a recent issue of the scientific journal Nature Photonics.Some of these new applications, such as a light source to generate beams that can turn around corners, or lighted spaces that contain no apparent light source, are still five or ten years away, according to Prof. Arie.But his research has immediate applications as well.For example, because small particles are attracted to the highest intensities of a beam, the pharmaceutical and chemical industries can use the new beam to sort molecules according to size or quality, filtering impurities from drug formulations that might otherwise lead to toxicity and death.Until now, reports an editorial review in the same issue of Nature Photonics, Airy beams have been generated through "linear diffraction" using tools that project a single colour of light through glass plates of varying thicknesses.But using crystals they built in the lab, Tel Aviv University's approach uses another technique: nonlinear optics.Sent through crystals, light waves bounce inside the crystal, changing their wavelength and colour.It is through this process, the researchers say, that the door is opened for creating new light beams at new wavelengths with greater control of their trajectories."We've found a way to control whether an Airy beam curves to the left or to the right, for example," said Prof. Arie.He has also found a way to control the peak intensity location of the beams, which are generated through a non-linear optical process.Airy beams promise remarkable advances for engineering.They could form the technology behind space-age "light bullets" - as effective and precise defence technologies for police and the military, but also as a new communications interface between transponders.As tiny, tight packets of information, these Airy beams could be used out in the open air, researchers hope. (ANI)

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