Review Articles

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  • We have just witnessed the birth of the first quantum technology based on encoding information in light for quantum key distribution. The quantum nature of light seems destined to continue to have a central role in future technologies. Here we provide a broad review of photonics for quantum technologies touching on topics including secure communication with photons, quantum information processing, quantum lithography and integrated quantum photonics.

    • Jeremy L. O'Brien
    • Akira Furusawa
    • Jelena Vučković
    Review Article
  • Semiconductor nanowires, by definition, typically have cross-sectional dimensions that can be tuned from 2–200 nm, with lengths spanning from hundreds of nanometres to millimetres. These subwavelength structures represent a new class of semiconductor materials for investigating light generation, propagation, detection, amplification and modulation. After more than a decade of research, nanowires can now be synthesized and assembled with specific compositions, heterojunctions and architectures. This has led to a host of nanowire photonic devices including photodetectors, chemical and gas sensors, waveguides, LEDs, microcavity lasers, solar cells and nonlinear optical converters. A fully integrated photonic platform using nanowire building blocks promises advanced functionalities at dimensions compatible with on-chip technologies.

    • Ruoxue Yan
    • Daniel Gargas
    • Peidong Yang
    Review Article
  • Photoacoustic tomography (PAT) is probably the fastest-growing area of biomedical imaging technology, owing to its capacity for high-resolution sensing of rich optical contrast in vivo at depths beyond the optical transport mean free path (∼1 mm in human skin). Existing high-resolution optical imaging technologies, such as confocal microscopy and two-photon microscopy, have had a fundamental impact on biomedicine but cannot reach the penetration depths of PAT. By utilizing low ultrasonic scattering, PAT indirectly improves tissue transparency up to 1000-fold and consequently enables deeply penetrating functional and molecular imaging at high spatial resolution. Furthermore, PAT promises in vivo imaging at multiple length-scales; it can image subcellular organelles to organs with the same contrast origin — an important application in multiscale systems biology research.

    • Lihong V. Wang
    Review Article
  • Diffraction of light prevents optical microscopes from having spatial resolution beyond a value comparable to the wavelength of the probing light. This essentially means that visible light cannot image nanomaterials. Here we review the mechanism for going beyond this diffraction limit and discuss how manipulation of light by means of surface plasmons propagating along the metal surface can help to achieve this. The interesting behaviour of light under the influence of plasmons not only allows superlensing, in which perfect imaging is possible through a flat thin metal film, but can also provide nano-imaging of practical samples by using a localized surface plasmon mode at the tip of a metallic nanoprobe. We also discuss the current research status and some intriguing future possibilities.

    • Satoshi Kawata
    • Yasushi Inouye
    • Prabhat Verma
    Review Article
  • The word 'ceramics' is derived from the Greek keramos, meaning pottery and porcelain. The opaque and translucent cement and clay often used in tableware are not appropriate for optical applications because of the high content of optical scattering sources, that is, defects. Recently, scientists have shown that by eliminating the defects, a new, refined ceramic material — polycrystalline ceramic — can be produced. This advanced ceramic material offers practical laser generation and is anticipated to be a highly attractive alternative to conventional glass and single-crystal laser technologies in the future. Here we review the history of the development of ceramic lasers, the principle of laser generation based on this material, some typical results achieved with ceramic lasers so far, and discuss the potential future outlook for the field.

    • Akio Ikesue
    • Yan Lin Aung
    Review Article
  • The unique properties of wide-bandwidth and dispersion-free propagation in photonic-crystal devices have made them a good candidate for slow-light generation. This article gives the background theory of slow light, as well as an overview of recent experimental demonstrations based on photonic-band engineering.

    • Toshihiko Baba
    Review Article
  • This article reviews different approaches for slow- and fast-light generation in optical fibres at telecommunication wavelengths, with emphasis on the stimulated–Brillouin–scattering approach — a relatively active area in optical–fibre–based control of slow and fast light.

    • Luc Thévenaz
    Review Article
  • Carbon nanotubes possess unique properties that make them potentially useful in many applications in optoelectronics. This review describes the fundamental optical behaviour of carbon nanotubes as well as their opportunities for light generation and detection, and photovoltaic energy generation.

    • Phaedon Avouris
    • Marcus Freitag
    • Vasili Perebeinos
    Review Article
  • Interactions between laser and matter are fascinating and have found a wide range of applications. This article gives an overview of the fundamental physical mechanisms in the processing of transparent materials using ultrafast lasers, as well as important emerging applications of the technology.

    • Rafael R. Gattass
    • Eric Mazur
    Review Article