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Revealing the invariance of vectorial structured light in perturbing media

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posted on 2023-01-12, 13:54 authored by Isaac Nape, Keshaan Singh, Asher Klug, Wagner Buono, Carmelo Rosales-Guzmán, Sonja Franke-Arnold, Angela Dudley, Andrew Forbes
Optical aberrations have been studied for centuries, placing fundamental limits on the achievable resolution in focusing and imaging. In the context of structured light, the spatial pattern is distorted in amplitude and phase, often arising from optical imperfections, element misalignment, or even from dynamic processes due to propagation through perturbing media such as living tissue, free-space, underwater and optical fibre. Here we show that the polarisation inhomogeneity that defines vectorial structured light is immune to all such perturbations, provided they are unitary. By way of example, we study the robustness of vector vortex beams to tilted lenses and atmospheric turbulence, both highly asymmetric aberrations, demonstrating that the inhomogeneous nature of the polarisation remains unaltered from the near-field to far-field, even as the structure itself changes. The unitary nature of the channel allows us to undo this change through a simple lossless operation, tailoring light that appears robust in all its spatial structure regardless of the medium. Our insight highlights the overlooked role of measurement in describing classical vectorial light fields, in doing so resolving prior contradictory reports on the robustness of vector beams in complex media. This paves the way to the versatile application of vectorial structured light, even through non-ideal optical systems, crucial in applications such as imaging deep into tissue and optical communication across noisy channels.



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