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Revealing the invariance of vectorial structured light in complex media

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A Publisher Correction to this article was published on 25 July 2022

This article has been updated

Abstract

Optical aberrations place fundamental limits on the achievable resolution with focusing and imaging. In the context of structured light, optical imperfections and misalignments and perturbing media such as turbulent air, underwater and optical fibre distort the amplitude and phase of the light’s spatial pattern. Here we show that polarization inhomogeneity that defines vectorial structured light is immune to all such perturbations, provided they are unitary. As an example, we study the robustness of vector vortex beams propagating through highly aberrated systems, demonstrating that the inhomogeneous nature of polarization remains unaltered even as the medium itself changes. The unitary nature of the channel allows us to undo this change through a simple lossless operation. This approach paves the way to the versatile application of vectorial structured light, even through non-ideal optical systems, crucial in applications such as imaging and optical communication across noisy channels.

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Fig. 1: Vectorial light through a tilted lens.
Fig. 2: Impact of scattering across multiple subspaces.
Fig. 3: Unitary channel mapping and its inversion.
Fig. 4: Choice of measurement basis.
Fig. 5: Unravelling turbulence.
Fig. 6: Real-world channels.

Data availability

The code used to reproduce the results is available at https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.6502858.

Code availability

The code used to reproduce the results is available at https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.6502858.

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Acknowledgements

A.F. thanks the NRF-CSIR Rental Pool Programme.

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I.N., W.B., A. Klug, A.M., K.S., C.R.-G. and A. Kritzinger performed the experiments. All the authors contributed to the data analysis and writing of the manuscript. A.F. supervised the project.

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Correspondence to Andrew Forbes.

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Nape, I., Singh, K., Klug, A. et al. Revealing the invariance of vectorial structured light in complex media. Nat. Photon. 16, 538–546 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41566-022-01023-w

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