Research ArticleOPTICS

Free-space propagation of high-dimensional structured optical fields in an urban environment

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Science Advances  25 Oct 2017:
Vol. 3, no. 10, e1700552
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1700552

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Spatially structured optical fields have been used to enhance the functionality of a wide variety of systems that use light for sensing or information transfer. As higher-dimensional modes become a solution of choice in optical systems, it is important to develop channel models that suitably predict the effect of atmospheric turbulence on these modes. We investigate the propagation of a set of orthogonal spatial modes across a free-space channel between two buildings separated by 1.6 km. Given the circular geometry of a common optical lens, the orthogonal mode set we choose to implement is that described by the Laguerre-Gaussian (LG) field equations. Our study focuses on the preservation of phase purity, which is vital for spatial multiplexing and any system requiring full quantum-state tomography. We present experimental data for the modal degradation in a real urban environment and draw a comparison to recognized theoretical predictions of the link. Our findings indicate that adaptations to channel models are required to simulate the effects of atmospheric turbulence placed on high-dimensional structured modes that propagate over a long distance. Our study indicates that with mitigation of vortex splitting, potentially through precorrection techniques, one could overcome the challenges in a real point-to-point free-space channel in an urban environment.

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