The University of Southampton

Brilliance in research...

Published: 21 October 2014

Seeing Einstein in a New Light

Joint first prize winners of our brilliance in research competition: Albert Einstein’s life was encompassed with his love for light. Known for his years of miracles in science, Einstein’s insight into the nature of light are now the fundamentals of modern physics and science and innovation.

Here we demonstrate one of his iconic portraits through the information of the laser beam’s polarisation imprinted into amorphous silicon by femtosecond laser nanostructuring using the fundamentals that Einstein spoke of. The arrows indicate the polarisation state of the illumination used for the negative (parallel), positive (perpendicular) and birefringent (cross-polarised) optical transmission imaging.

Under different orientations of light based upon whether it is illuminating the dichroic or birefrigent portion of the image, we see that we can uncover part of Einstein’s portrait which would have been secret under unpolarised light, similar to the secrets held by light that Einstein himself tried to uncover.

The technology behind the image

Femtosecond laser assisted micro-machining through the nonlinear light-matter interaction enables the transition of amorphous silicon to nano-crystalline silicon. Within an ultrashort time scale the orientation of electric field is frozen into the self-organised pattern leading to its extraordinary optoelectronic properties.

Changing the laser processing conditions we are able to control both birefringence and dichroism to add an extra dimension to polarisation sensitive printing which can revolutionise the fields of flat optics and data storage and provide new methods of printing which could innovate fields such as security marking, solar cells, sensors & detectors and linking potential electronic and photonic components/devices.

Look out for Aabid Patel and Rokas Drevinskas' forthcoming paper on this work.

The Optoelectronics Research Centre holds it's annual 'Brilliance' competition, to celebrate the beauty and novelty of our research into light and its applications. The objective is to show the beautiful, novel and sometimes whimsical side of the technological advances our research brings.

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