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Coloured vortex beams with incoherent white light illumination


The orbital angular momentum is a fundamental degree of freedom of light wavefronts, currently exploited in applications where information capacity is a key requirement, such as optical communication, super-resolution imaging and high-dimensional quantum computing. However, generating orbital angular momentum beams requires spatio-temporally coherent light sources (lasers or supercontinuum sources), because incoherent light would smear out the doughnut features of orbital angular momentum beams, forming polychromatic or obscured orbital angular momentum beams instead. Here we show generation of coloured orbital angular momentum beams using incoherent white light. Spatio-temporal coherence is achieved by miniaturizing spiral phase plates and integrating them with structural colour filters, three-dimensionally printed at the nanoscale. Our scheme can in principle generate multiple helical eigenstates and combine colour information into orbital angular momentum beams independently. These three-dimensional optical elements encoded with colour and orbital angular momentum information substantially increase the number of combinations for optical anti-counterfeiting and photonic lock–key devices in a pairwise fashion.

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Fig. 1: Schematic of CVB unit and photonic tally pair.
Fig. 2: Design principle and experimental results of the CVB units.
Fig. 3: Single photonic tally piece and corresponding encrypted information.
Fig. 4: Combined effects of photonic tally pairs.
Fig. 5: Photonic tally pair with different colours.

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Data availability

The data that support the figures and other findings of this study are available from the corresponding authors upon reasonable request. Source data are provided with this paper.

Code availability

The code used for the photonic tally design and characterization is available from the corresponding authors upon reasonable request.


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J.K.W.Y. acknowledges funding support from the National Research Foundation (NRF) of Singapore under its Competitive Research Programme award (NRF-CRP20-2017-0004) and NRF Investigatorship Award (NRF-NRFI06-2020-0005). C.-W.Q. acknowledges financial support from the NRF, Prime Minister’s Office, Singapore under the Competitive Research Program Award (NRF-CRP26-2021-0063). C.-W.Q. is also supported by a grant (A-0005947-16-00) from the Advanced Research and Technology Innovation Centre at the National University of Singapore. M.G. acknowledges the support from the Science and Technology Commission of Shanghai Municipality (grant no. 21DZ1100500) and the Shanghai Frontiers Science Center Program (2021–2025 no. 20).

Author information

Authors and Affiliations



Hongtao Wang, J.K.W.Y. and C.-W.Q. conceived the idea of CVBs and a photonic tally pair. Hongtao Wang performed the design, numerical simulation, fabrication and characterization of the photonic tally pair with assistance from Hao Wang and drafted the paper. All the authors contributed to the data analysis and paper revision. J.K.W.Y. and C.-W.Q. supervised the whole project.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Cheng-Wei Qiu or Joel K. W. Yang.

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Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Peer review

Peer review information

Nature Nanotechnology thanks Dong Jianji and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Notes 1–4, Figs. 1–15 and captions for Videos 1–8.

Supplementary Video 1

Fabrication of CVB units.

Supplementary Video 2

Observation method for CVB units and photonic tallies.

Supplementary Video 3

Photonic tally pair I.

Supplementary Video 4

Photonic tally pair II.

Supplementary Video 5

Photonic tally pair III.

Supplementary Video 6

Photonic tally pair IV.

Supplementary Video 7

Photonic tally pair V, Tetris-like blocks with the same colours.

Supplementary Video 8

Photonic tally pair VI, Tetris-like blocks with different colours.

Source data

Source Data Fig. 2

Measured spectra of Fig. 2f.

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Wang, H., Wang, H., Ruan, Q. et al. Coloured vortex beams with incoherent white light illumination. Nat. Nanotechnol. 18, 264–272 (2023).

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