Monday, June 10, 2013

The photonic wheel - demonstration of a state of light with purely transverse angular momentum

P. Banzer, M. Neugebauer, A. Aiello, C. Marquardt, N. Lindlein, T. Bauer, G. Leuchs
In classical mechanics, a system may possess angular momentum which can be either transverse (e.g. in a spinning wheel) or longitudinal(e.g. for a spiraling seed falling from a tree) with respect to the direction of motion. However, for light, a typical massless wave system,the situation is less versatile. Photons are well-known to exhibit intrinsic angular momentum which is longitudinal only: the spin angular momentum defining the polarization and the orbital angular momentum associated with a spiraling phase front. Here we show that it is possible to generate a novel state of the light field that contains purely transverse angular momentum, the analogue of a spinning mechanical wheel. We realize this state by tight focusing of a polarization tailored light beam and measure it using an optical nano-probing technique. Such a novel state of the light field can find applications in optical tweezers and spanners where it allows for additional rotational degree of freedom not achievable in single-beam configurations so far.
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