Research ArticleOPTICS

There are many ways to spin a photon: Half-quantization of a total optical angular momentum

Science Advances  29 Apr 2016:
Vol. 2, no. 4, e1501748
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1501748

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Abstract

The angular momentum of light plays an important role in many areas, from optical trapping to quantum information. In the usual three-dimensional setting, the angular momentum quantum numbers of the photon are integers, in units of the Planck constant ħ. We show that, in reduced dimensions, photons can have a half-integer total angular momentum. We identify a new form of total angular momentum, carried by beams of light, comprising an unequal mixture of spin and orbital contributions. We demonstrate the half-integer quantization of this total angular momentum using noise measurements. We conclude that for light, as is known for electrons, reduced dimensionality allows new forms of quantization.

Keywords
  • Physics
  • quantum optics
  • optical angular momentum

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, so long as the resultant use is not for commercial advantage and provided the original work is properly cited.

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