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Appl Opt. 2012 Dec 1;51(34):8236-45. doi: 10.1364/AO.51.008236.

Orbital angular momentum generation and mode transformation with high efficiency using forked polarization gratings.

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Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina 27695, USA.


We present a novel optical element that efficiently generates orbital angular momentum (OAM) of light and transforms light between OAM modes based on a polarization grating with a fork-shaped singularity. This forked polarization grating (FPG) is composed of liquid crystalline materials, and can be made either static or switchable with high diffraction efficiency (i.e., 100% theoretically) into a single order. By spatially varying the Pancharatnam-Berry phase, FPGs shape the wavefront and thus control the OAM mode. We demonstrate theoretically and empirically that a charge l(g) FPG creates helical modes with OAM charge ±l(g) when a gaussian beam is input, and more generally, transforms the incident helical mode with OAM charge l(in) into output modes with OAM charge l(in)±l(g). We also show for the first time that this conversion into a single mode can be very efficient (i.e., ∼95% experimentally) at visible wavelengths, and the relative power between the two possible output modes is polarization-controllable from 0% to ∼100%. We developed a fabrication method that substantially improves FPG quality and efficiency over prior work. We also successfully fabricated switchable FPGs, which can be electrically switched between an OAM generating/transforming state and a transmissive state. Our experimental results showed >92% conversion efficiency for both configurations at 633 nm. These holographically fabricated elements are compact (i.e., thin glass plates), lightweight, and easily optimized for nearly any wavelength from ultraviolet to infrared, for a wide range of OAM charge, and for large or small clear apertures. They are ideal elements for enhanced control of OAM, e.g., in optical trapping and high-capacity information.


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