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Structured light


All light has structure, but only recently has it been possible to control it in all its degrees of freedom and dimensions, fuelling fundamental advances and applications alike. Here we review the recent advances in ‘pushing the limits’ with structured light, from traditional two-dimensional transverse fields towards four-dimensional spatiotemporal structured light and multidimensional quantum states, beyond orbital angular momentum towards control of all degrees of freedom, and beyond a linear toolkit to include nonlinear interactions, particularly for high-harmonic structured light. Using a simple interference argument, centuries old, we weave a story that highlights the common nature of seemingly diverse structures, presenting a modern viewpoint on the classes of structured light, and outline the possible future trends and open challenges.

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Fig. 1: Beyond 2D structured light.
Fig. 2: A nonlinear toolbox.
Fig. 3: Pushing the limits of structured light.


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We thank E. Karimi, Y. Shen, A. Dorrah and Q. Zhan for providing customized graphics. We are grateful to M. Alonso for discussions on the operator interpretation of aberrations in cavities.

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Correspondence to Andrew Forbes.

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Peer review information Nature Photonics thanks Lorenzo Marrucci, Halina Rubinsztein-Dunlop and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Forbes, A., de Oliveira, M. & Dennis, M.R. Structured light. Nat. Photonics 15, 253–262 (2021).

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