Research ArticleOPTICS

Strong amplitude and phase modulation of optical spatial coherence with surface plasmon polaritons

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Science Advances  18 Oct 2017:
Vol. 3, no. 10, e1700133
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1700133

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The degree of optical spatial coherence—a fundamental property of light that describes the mutual correlations between fluctuating electromagnetic fields—has been proven challenging to control at the micrometer scale. We use surface plasmon polaritons—evanescent waves excited on both surfaces of a thin metal film—as a means to mix the random fluctuations of the incident electromagnetic fields at the slit locations of a Young’s double-slit interferometer. Strong tunability of the complex degree of spatial coherence of light is achieved by finely varying the separation distance between the two slits. Continuous modulation of the degree of spatial coherence with amplitudes ranging from 0 to 80% allows us to transform totally incoherent incident light into highly coherent light and vice versa. These findings pave the way for alternative methods to engineer flat optical elements with multifunctional capabilities beyond conventional refractive- and diffractive-based photonic metasurfaces.

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