Living life on the edge: Ultrafast camera captures light transport in an artificial crystal



Researchers at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh have created a new type of crystal that can control how light spreads and reveal how it can be manipulated.

The artificial crystal was created by using an ultrafast laser, which emitted pulses of light one trillionth of a second long to directly write the light-guiding crystal into a glass substrate.

The laser fabricated crystal was placed into an optical cavity to continually recycle the light propagating inside, so that the scientists could capture the evolution of the topological states of light.

Professor Robert Thomson and Dr Sebarata Mukherjee designed a new ultrafast imaging technique to capture and film the evolution of light inside the crystal, as reported in Nature Communications.

Dr  Sebarata Mukherjee said: “This technique will be useful for a wide range of scientists working across the fields of optics, photonics and condensed matter physics, and opens the door to a deeper understanding of fundamental physics.”

Professor Robert Thomson said: “Capturing the transport of light using this new imaging technique will help us to understand exactly how these new topological photonic systems work, and what their limitations and advantages are.

“Once we understand these, a range  of new potential applications could be enabled, including new more powerful lasers and new types of endoscope.”

“This has the potential to transform light technologies like fibre optics, telecommunications and even compact endoscopes.”