Bend breakthrough sends light around a corner

Bend breakthrough sends light around a corner
Credit: Tim Wetherell.

( -- Australian National University scientists have successfully bent light beams around an object on a two dimensional metal surface, opening the door to faster and cheaper computer chips working with light.

The international team, including three members from the Research School of Physics and Engineering at ANU, have successfully demonstrated that a tiny on a flat surface can be bent around an obstacle, and course-correct itself on the other side of that obstacle. It’s the world’s first two-dimensional demonstration of so-called ‘Airy beams’. Their paper on the subject will be published in this month’s Physical Review Letters.

“Students in science class learn that rays travel along straight trajectories and that it can’t go around corners,” said ANU team member Professor Yuri Kivshar.

“Recently it was discovered that small beams of light can be bent in a laboratory setting, diffracting much less than a regular beam. These rays of light are called ‘Airy Beams,’ and named after the English astronomer Sir George Biddell Airy, who studied light in rainbows.

“Our team has demonstrated that these beams can also be bound on the flat surface of a chip. We also observed a fascinating property of these beams – the so-called self-healing phenomenon, where the wave recovers after passing through surface defects,” he said.

Fellow ANU team member Dr. Dragomir Neshev says that this demonstration offers potential in a number of areas.

“This discovery offers some exciting possible applications, particularly in the area of communications technology where it could allow us a cheap way to manipulate light on a chip,” he said.

“It also offers potential in the manipulation of biological molecules in a much cheaper way than it is currently done.”

The demonstration that light can be made to bend on a has been the subject of fierce academic competition by research groups around the world, including groups from the USA, China, and Korea.

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Provided by Australian National University
Citation: Bend breakthrough sends light around a corner (2011, August 12) retrieved 20 September 2019 from
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Aug 12, 2011
Interesting article! What's also cool is that things taught in science classes today can be totally wrong tomorrow :) Hopefully this will be a great advancement in quantum computers as well.

Aug 12, 2011
Interesting article! What's also cool is that things taught in science classes today can be totally wrong tomorrow :) Hopefully this will be a great advancement in quantum computers as well.

Nope, just totally wrong to begin with.

It can't be "right" yesterday and "wrong" today...

This is why experimentalists will always trump theorists.

Aug 12, 2011
It's just as wrong as Newton was wrong after Einstein, I wouldn't call that "totally".

Aug 12, 2011
Lighten up guys... It is one thing to correct Chief, but it is another to be so sharp in your responses to him. Keep on being excited Chief we need more people to be that way when it comes to science!

Aug 12, 2011
If science is the progeny of intellectual intercourse then no more could experimentalists do without theorists, or visa versa, than could children do without male and female. Trump theorists? Utterly incongruous concept.

Aug 13, 2011
Well yes something can be wrong yesterday and right today, just as heat was thought to be a fluid, just as the early models for the atom structure until Niels Bohr proposed his model (albeit still a bit incomplete) so come on don't be rash with the guy.

And I don't think experimentalists will take down theorists. Some experiments go wrong because the theory is poorly understood and some theories are wrong because experiments say otherwise. So, we're in a stalemate here people :)

Thats how I see it

Aug 15, 2011
From a scientific point, it is certainly interesting. But from en engineering point of view, what about optical fibers and using some micro-mirrors, to make the light go around a corner ?

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