Tech Briefs

Simplified Generation of High-Angular-Momentum Light Beams

Inherent properties of a WGM resonator and optical fiber are exploited.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California

A simplified method of generating a beam of light having a relatively high value of angular momentum (see figure) involves the use of a compact apparatus consisting mainly of a laser, a whispering-gallery-mode (WGM) resonator, and optical fibers. The method also can be used to generate a Bessel beam. (“Bessel beam” denotes a member of a class of non-diffracting beams, so named because their amplitudes are proportional to Bessel functions of the radii from their central axes. High-order Bessel beams can have high values of angular momentum.)

altHigh-angular-momentum light beams are used in some applications in biology and nanotechnology, wherein they are known for their ability to apply torque to make microscopic objects rotate. High-angular-momentum light beams could also be used to increase bandwidths of fiber-optic communication systems. The present simplified method of generating a high-angular-momentum light beam was conceived as an alternative to prior such methods, which are complicated and require optical setups that include, variously, holograms, modulating Fabry-Perot cavities, or special microstructures.

The present simplified method exploits a combination of the complex structure of the electromagnetic field inside a WGM resonator, total internal reflection in the WGM resonator, and the electromagnetic modes supported by an optical fiber. The optical fiber used to extract light from the WGM resonator is made of fused quartz. The output end of this fiber is polished flat and perpendicular to the fiber axis. The input end of this fiber is cut on a slant and placed very close to the WGM resonator at an appropriate position and orientation. To excite the resonant whispering-gallery modes, light is introduced into the WGM resonator via another optical fiber that is part of a pigtailed fiber-optic coupler.

Light extracted from the WGM resonator is transformed into a high-angular-momentum beam inside the extraction optical fiber and this beam is emitted from the polished flat output end. By adjusting the geometry of this apparatus, it is possible to generate a variety of optical beams characterized by a wide range of parameters. These beams generally have high angular momenta and can be of either Bessel or Bessel-related types.

This work was done by Anatoliy Savchenkov, Lute Maleki, Andrey Matsko, Dmitry Strekalov, and Ivan Grudinin of Caltech for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

In accordance with Public Law 96-517, the contractor has elected to retain title to this invention. Inquiries concerning rights for its commercial use should be addressed to:

Innovative Technology Assets Management
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Pasadena, CA 91109-8099
(818) 354-2240
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Refer to NPO-42965