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Observation of the inverse Doppler effect in negative-index materials at optical frequencies

Nature Photonics volume 5, pages 239245 (2011) | Download Citation

  • An Addendum to this article was published on 30 June 2011

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The Doppler effect is a fundamental frequency shift phenomenon that occurs whenever a wave source and an observer are moving with respect to one another. It has well-established applications in astrophotonics, biological diagnostics, weather and aircraft radar systems, velocimetry and vibrometry. The counterintuitive inverse Doppler effect was theoretically predicted in 1968 by Veselago1 in negative-index materials2. However, because of the tremendous challenges of frequency shift measurements inside such materials, most investigations of the inverse Doppler effect have been limited to theoretical predictions and numerical simulations3,4,5,6,7. Indirect experimental measurements have been conducted only in nonlinear transmission lines at 1–2 GHz (ref. 8) and in acoustic media at 1–3 kHz (ref. 9). The inverse Doppler shift at optical frequencies was demonstrated in an acousto-optic modulator using a fibre Bragg grating10. Here, we report the first experimental observation of the inverse Doppler shift at an optical frequency (λ = 10.6 µm) by refracting a laser beam in a photonic-crystal prism that has the properties of a negative-index material.

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Change history

  • 03 June 2011

    The News & Views 'Backwards Doppler shifts' (Nature Photon. 5, 199–200; 2011), should have cited a relevant manuscript that was published in October 1997: Liu, W. F., Russell, P. St. J. & Dong, L. Opt. Lett. 22, 1515–1517 (1997). The manuscript describes positive and negative Doppler shifts at optical frequencies in an acousto-optic superlattic modulator using a fibre Bragg grating. Associated amendments have been made to the text and the references have been renumbered accordingly. This revision has been made to the HTML and PDF versions.


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This work is supported by the National Basic Research Program of China (2007CB935303, 2011CB707504), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (60778031, 61008044) and the Shanghai Leading Academic Discipline Project (S30502). Min Gu acknowledges support from the Australian Research Council (ARC) under the Centres of Excellence programme and the Laureate Fellowship scheme (FL100100099). Baohua Jia thanks the ARC for support through APD grant DP0987006.

Author information


  1. Shanghai Key Lab of Contemporary Optical System, Optical Electronic Information and Computer Engineering College, University of Shanghai for Science and Technology, Shanghai 200093 China

    • Jiabi Chen
    • , Yan Wang
    • , Tao Geng
    • , Lie Feng
    • , Wei Qian
    • , Bingming Liang
    • , Xuanxiong Zhang
    •  & Songlin Zhuang
  2. College of Physics and Communication Electronics, Jiangxi Normal University, Nanchang 330022 China

    • Yan Wang
  3. Center for Micro-Photonics and CUDOS, Swinburne University of Technology, John Street Hawthorn, Victoria 3122, Australia

    • Baohua Jia
    • , Xiangping Li
    •  & Min Gu


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J.C., Y.W., T.G. and S.Z. designed and performed experiments, analysed data and wrote the paper. B.J., X.L. and M.G. designed the supplemental experiment and the physical strategy of the numerical calculations, analysed data and wrote the paper. B.L. designed and performed experiments. L.F. and W.Q. performed experiments. X.Z. prepared the photonic crystal prisms.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Correspondence to Tao Geng or Min Gu.

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