Method to significantly enhance optical force

October 2, 2017, Chalmers University of Technology
Enhanced optical force. When light flows into the waveguide made of metamaterial, the photons (yellow) are tricked to move to one side. Here the action is visualised by the rotors (green). When all photons are assembled on the same side, the optical force (blue) between the waveguides is strongly enhanced. The curves (red) show how the light has moved from the middle to the side of the waveguides. Credit: Sophie Viaene, Lana Descheemaeker and Vincent Ginis.

Light consists of a flow of photons. If two waveguides – cables for light – are side by side, they attract or repel each other. The interaction is due to the optical force, but the effect is usually extremely small. Physicists at Chalmers University of Technology and Free University of Brussels have now found a method to significantly enhance optical force. The method opens new possibilities within sensor technology and nanoscience. The results were recently published in Physical Review Letters.

To make light behave in a completely new way, the scientists have studied waveguides made of an artificial material to trick the photons. The specially designed material makes all the photons move to one side of the waveguide. When the photons in a nearby do the same, a collection of photons suddenly gather very closely. This enhances the force between the waveguides up to 10 times.

"We have found a way to trick the photons so that they cluster together at the inner sides of the waveguides. Photons normally don't prefer left or right, but our metamaterial creates exactly that effect," says Philippe Tassin, Associate Professor at the Department of Physics at Chalmers University of Technology.

Philippe Tassin and Sophie Viaene at Chalmers and Lana Descheemaeker and Vincent Ginis at Free University of Brussels have developed a method to use the optical force in a completely new way. It can, for example, be used in sensors or to drive nanomotors. In the future, such motors might be used to sort cells or separate particles in medical technology.

"Our opens up new opportunities for the use of waveguides in a range of technical applications. It is really exciting that man-made materials can change the basic characteristics of light propagation so dramatically," says Vincent Ginis, assistant professor at the Department of Physics at Free University of Brussels.

Explore further: Metamaterials open up entirely new possibilities in optics

More information: Lana Descheemaeker et al. Optical Force Enhancement Using an Imaginary Vector Potential for Photons, Physical Review Letters (2017). DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.119.137402

Related Stories

Metamaterials open up entirely new possibilities in optics

November 29, 2016

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology have developed a method that enables them to manipulate light to follow any predetermined path along a surface. The innovation has now been described as one of the world's ...

Photonic waveguides suppress "crosstalk among neighbors"

July 23, 2015

Silicon photonics holds great promise for low-cost, large-scale integration of photonic components.  The demand for increasing density of these components has led to a multitude of technological challenges in their manufacture ...

Recommended for you

A quantum magnet with a topological twist

February 22, 2019

Taking their name from an intricate Japanese basket pattern, kagome magnets are thought to have electronic properties that could be valuable for future quantum devices and applications. Theories predict that some electrons ...

Sculpting stable structures in pure liquids

February 21, 2019

Oscillating flow and light pulses can be used to create reconfigurable architecture in liquid crystals. Materials scientists can carefully engineer concerted microfluidic flows and localized optothermal fields to achieve ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Oct 02, 2017
Could this also be used to help in chip manufacturing? I know we are near the limits of the current frequencies being used, but if this method is able to further refine the path of photons, it could lead to further advances.
not rated yet Oct 03, 2017
Just what is this "optical force"?
not rated yet Oct 03, 2017
Just what is this "optical force"?
I got a better question for you. Just what is "google"? Maybe you should find the answer to that one first.

Here's another one - just why do people come here and ask amateurs to explain things to them when they can get real explanations from competent experts on the net?

That's an even bigger mystery you need to solve.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.