2018 Vol. 7, No. 1

We are thrilled to introduce our new column: News and Views
Peng Xi
Published. 2018, 7(1) 17128 doi: 10.1038/lsa.2017.128
Enhancement of the 'tractor-beam' pulling force on an optically bound structure
Jana Damková, Lukáš Chvátal, Jan Ježek, Jindřich Oulehla, Oto Brzobohatý, et al.
Published. 2018, 7(1) 17135 doi: 10.1038/lsa.2017.135
Direct characterization of a nonlinear photonic circuit's wave function with laser light
Francesco Lenzini, Alexander N Poddubny, James Titchener, Paul Fisher, Andreas Boes, et al.
Published. 2018, 7(1) 17143 doi: 10.1038/lsa.2017.143
Electrons dynamics control by shaping femtosecond laser pulses in micro/nanofabrication: modeling, method, measurement and application
Lan Jiang, An-Dong Wang, Bo Li, Tian-Hong Cui, Yong-Feng Lu
Published. 2018, 7(1) 17134 doi: 10.1038/lsa.2017.134
During femtosecond laser fabrication, photons are mainly absorbed by electrons, and the subsequent energy transfer from electrons to ions is of picosecond order. Hence, lattice motion is negligible within the femtosecond pulse duration, whereas femtosecond photon-electron interactions dominate the entire fabrication process. Therefore, femtosecond laser fabrication must be improved by controlling localized transient electron dynamics, which poses a challenge for measuring and controlling at the electron level during fabrication processes. Pump-probe spectroscopy presents a viable solution, which can be used to observe electron dynamics during a chemical reaction. In fact, femtosecond pulse durations are shorter than many physical/chemical characteristic times, which permits manipulating, adjusting, or interfering with electron dynamics. Hence, we proposed to control localized transient electron dynamics by temporally or spatially shaping femtosecond pulses, and further to modify localized transient materials properties, and then to adjust material phase change, and eventually to implement a novel fabrication method. This review covers our progresses over the past decade regarding electrons dynamics control (EDC) by shaping femtosecond laser pulses in micro/nanomanufacturing: (1) Theoretical models were developed to prove EDC feasibility and reveal its mechanisms; (2) on the basis of the theoretical predictions, many experiments are conducted to validate our EDC-based femtosecond laser fabrication method. Seven examples are reported, which proves that the proposed method can significantly improve fabrication precision, quality, throughput and repeatability and effectively control micro/nanoscale structures; (3) a multiscale measurement system was proposed and developed to study the fundamentals of EDC from the femtosecond scale to the nanosecond scale and to the millisecond scale; and (4) As an example of practical applications, our method was employed to fabricate some key structures in one of the 16 Chinese National S & T Major Projects, for which electron dynamics were measured using our multiscale measurement system.
Original Articles
Four-dimensional light shaping: manipulating ultrafast spatiotemporal foci in space and time
Bangshan Sun, Patrick S Salter, Clemens Roider, Alexander Jesacher, Johannes Strauss, et al.
Published. 2018, 7(1) 17117 doi: 10.1038/lsa.2017.117
The spectral dispersion of ultrashort pulses allows the simultaneous focusing of light in both space and time, which creates so-called spatiotemporal foci. Such space–time coupling may be combined with the existing holographic techniques to give a further dimension of control when generating focal light fields. In the present study, it is shown that a phase-only hologram placed in the pupil plane of an objective and illuminated by a spatially chirped ultrashort pulse can be used to generate three-dimensional arrays of spatio-temporally focused spots. By exploiting the pulse front tilt generated at focus when applying simultaneous spatial and temporal focusing (SSTF), it is possible to overlap neighboring foci in time to create a smooth intensity distribution. The resulting light field displays a high level of axial confinement, with experimental demonstrations given through two-photon microscopy and the non-linear laser fabrication of glass.
Superluminal X-waves in a polariton quantum fluid
Antonio Gianfrate, Lorenzo Dominici, Oksana Voronych, Michał Matuszewski, Magdalena Stobińska, et al.
Published. 2018, 7(1) 17119 doi: 10.1038/lsa.2017.119
In this work, we experimentally demonstrate for the first time the spontaneous generation of two-dimensional exciton-polariton X-waves. X-waves belong to the family of localized packets that can sustain their shape without spreading, even in the linear regime. This allows the wavepacket to maintain its shape and size for very low densities and very long times compared to soliton waves, which always necessitate a nonlinearity to compensate the diffusion. Here, we exploit the polariton nonlinearity and uniquely structured dispersion, comprising both positive- and negative-mass curvatures, to trigger an asymmetric four-wave mixing in momentum space. This ultimately enables the self-formation of a spatial X-wave front. Using ultrafast imaging experiments, we observe the early reshaping of the initial Gaussian packet into the X-pulse and its propagation, even for vanishingly small densities. This allows us to outline the crucial effects and parameters that drive the phenomena and to tune the degree of superluminal propagation, which we found to be in close agreement with numerical simulations.
Label-free 3D computational imaging of spermatozoon locomotion, head spin and flagellum beating over a large volume
Mustafa Ugur Daloglu, Wei Luo, Faizan Shabbir, Francis Lin, Kevin Kim, et al.
Published. 2018, 7(1) 17121 doi: 10.1038/lsa.2017.121
We report a high-throughput and label-free computational imaging technique that simultaneously measures in three-dimensional (3D) space the locomotion and angular spin of the freely moving heads of microswimmers and the beating patterns of their flagella over a sample volume more than two orders-of-magnitude larger compared to existing optical modalities. Using this platform, we quantified the 3D locomotion of 2133 bovine sperms and determined the spin axis and the angular velocity of the sperm head, providing the perspective of an observer seated at the moving and spinning sperm head. In this constantly transforming perspective, flagellum-beating patterns are decoupled from both the 3D translation and spin of the head, which provides the opportunity to truly investigate the 3D spatio-temporal kinematics of the flagellum. In addition to providing unprecedented information on the 3D locomotion of microswimmers, this computational imaging technique could also be instrumental for micro-robotics and sensing research, enabling the high-throughput quantification of the impact of various stimuli and chemicals on the 3D swimming patterns of sperms, motile bacteria and other micro-organisms, generating new insights into taxis behaviors and the underlying biophysics.
Microwatts continuous-wave pumped second harmonic generation in few- and mono-layer GaSe
Xue-Tao Gan, Chen-Yang Zhao, Si-Qi Hu, Tao Wang, Yu Song, et al.
Published. 2018, 7(1) 17126 doi: 10.1038/lsa.2017.126
We demonstrate the first achievement of continuous-wave (CW) pumped second harmonic generation (SHG) in few- and mono-layer gallium selenide (GaSe) flakes, which are coated on silicon photonic crystal (PC) cavities. Because of ultrahigh second order nonlinearity of the two-dimensional (2D) GaSe and localized resonant mode in the PC cavity, SHG's pump power is greatly reduced to microwatts. In a nine-layer GaSe coated PC cavity, while the optical power inside the GaSe flake is only 1.5% of that in the silicon PC slab, the SHG in GaSe is more than 650 times stronger than the third harmonic generation in silicon slab, indicating 2D GaSe's great potentials to strengthen nonlinear processes in silicon photonics. Our study opens up a new view to expand 2D materials' optoelectronic applications in nonlinear regime and chip-integrated active devices.
High-resolution grayscale image hidden in a laser beam
Fuyong Yue, Chunmei Zhang, Xiao-Fei Zang, Dandan Wen, Brian D Gerardot, et al.
Published. 2018, 7(1) 17129 doi: 10.1038/lsa.2017.129
Images perceived by human eyes or recorded by cameras are usually optical patterns with spatially varying intensity or color profiles. In addition to the intensity and color, the information of an image can be encoded in a spatially varying distribution of phase or polarization state. Interestingly, such images might not be able to be directly viewed by human eyes or cameras because they may exhibit highly uniform intensity profiles. Here, we propose and experimentally demonstrate an approach to hide a high-resolution grayscale image in a square laser beam with a size of less than half a millimeter. An image with a pixel size of 300 × 300 nm is encoded into the spatially variant polarization states of the laser beam, which can be revealed after passing through a linear polarizer. This unique technology for hiding grayscale images and polarization manipulation provides new opportunities for various applications, including encryption, imaging, optical communications, quantum science and fundamental physics.
Octave-spanning coherent supercontinuum generation in silicon on insulator from 1.06 μm to beyond 2.4 μm
Neetesh Singh, Ming Xin, Diedrik Vermeulen, Katia Shtyrkova, Nanxi Li, et al.
Published. 2018, 7(1) 17131 doi: 10.1038/lsa.2017.131
Efficient complementary metal-oxide semiconductor-based nonlinear optical devices in the near-infrared are in strong demand. Due to two-photon absorption in silicon, however, much nonlinear research is shifting towards unconventional photonics platforms. In this work, we demonstrate the generation of an octave-spanning coherent supercontinuum in a silicon waveguide covering the spectral region from the near- to shortwave-infrared. With input pulses of 18 pJ in energy, the generated signal spans the wavelength range from the edge of the silicon transmission window, approximately 1.06 to beyond 2.4 μm, with a −20 dB bandwidth covering 1.124–2.4 μm. An octave-spanning supercontinuum was also observed at the energy levels as low as 4 pJ (−35 dB bandwidth). We also measured the coherence over an octave, obtaining $$ \left| {g_{12}^{\left( 1 \right)}\left( \lambda \right)} \right| > 90\% $$, in good agreement with the simulations. In addition, we demonstrate optimization of the third-order dispersion of the waveguide to strengthen the dispersive wave and discuss the advantage of having a soliton at the long wavelength edge of an octave-spanning signal for nonlinear applications. This research paves the way for applications, such as chip-scale precision spectroscopy, optical coherence tomography, optical frequency metrology, frequency synthesis and wide-band wavelength division multiplexing in the telecom window.
Thermally stimulated exciton emission in Si nanocrystals
Elinore MLD de Jong, Huub Rutjes, Jan Valenta, M Tuan Trinh, Alexander N Poddubny, et al.
Published. 2018, 7(1) 17133 doi: 10.1038/lsa.2017.133
Increasing temperature is known to quench the excitonic emission of bulk silicon, which is due to thermally induced dissociation of excitons. Here, we demonstrate that the effect of temperature on the excitonic emission is reversed for quantum-confined silicon nanocrystals. Using laser-induced heating of silicon nanocrystals embedded in SiO2, we achieved a more than threefold (> 300%) increase in the radiative (photon) emission rate. We theoretically modeled the observed enhancement in terms of the thermally stimulated effect, taking into account the massive phonon production under intense illumination. These results elucidate one more important advantage of silicon nanostructures, illustrating that their optical properties can be influenced by temperature. They also provide an important insight into the mechanisms of energy conversion and dissipation in ensembles of silicon nanocrystals in solid matrices. In practice, the radiative rate enhancement under strong continuous wave optical pumping is relevant for the possible application of silicon nanocrystals for spectral conversion layers in concentrator photovoltaics.
Monolithically integrated stretchable photonics
Lan Li, Hongtao Lin, Shutao Qiao, Yi-Zhong Huang, Jun-Ying Li, et al.
Published. 2018, 7(1) 17138 doi: 10.1038/lsa.2017.138
Mechanically stretchable photonics provides a new geometric degree of freedom for photonic system design and foresees applications ranging from artificial skins to soft wearable electronics. Here we describe the design and experimental realization of the first single-mode stretchable photonic devices. These devices, made of chalcogenide glass and epoxy polymer materials, are monolithically integrated on elastomer substrates. To impart mechanical stretching capability to devices built using these intrinsically brittle materials, our design strategy involves local substrate stiffening to minimize shape deformation of critical photonic components, and interconnecting optical waveguides assuming a meandering Euler spiral geometry to mitigate radiative optical loss. Devices fabricated following such design can sustain 41% nominal tensile strain and 3000 stretching cycles without measurable degradation in optical performance. In addition, we present a rigorous analytical model to quantitatively predict stress-optical coupling behavior in waveguide devices of arbitrary geometry without using a single fitting parameter.
Non-contact mechanical and chemical analysis of single living cells by microspectroscopic techniques
Sara Mattana, Maurizio Mattarelli, Lorena Urbanelli, Krizia Sagini, Carla Emiliani, et al.
Published. 2018, 7(1) 17139 doi: 10.1038/lsa.2017.139
Innovative label-free microspectroscopy, which can simultaneously collect Brillouin and Raman signals, is used to characterize the viscoelastic properties and chemical composition of living cells with sub-micrometric resolution. The unprecedented statistical accuracy of the data combined with the high-frequency resolution and the high contrast of the recently built experimental setup permits the study of single living cells immersed in their buffer solution by contactless measurements. The Brillouin signal is deconvoluted in the buffer and the cell components, thereby revealing the mechanical heterogeneity inside the cell. In particular, a 20% increase is observed in the elastic modulus passing from the plasmatic membrane to the nucleus as distinguished by comparison with the Raman spectroscopic marker. Brillouin line shape analysis is even more relevant for the comparison of cells under physiological and pathological conditions. Following oncogene expression, cells show an overall reduction in the elastic modulus (15%) and apparent viscosity (50%). In a proof-of-principle experiment, the ability of this spectroscopic technique to characterize subcellular compartments and distinguish cell status was successfully tested. The results strongly support the future application of this technique for fundamental issues in the biomedical field.
Near-UV electroluminescence in unipolar-doped, bipolar-tunneling GaN/AlN heterostructures
Tyler A Growden, Weidong Zhang, Elliott R Brown, David F Storm, David J Meyer, et al.
Published. 2018, 7(1) 17150 doi: 10.1038/lsa.2017.150
Cross-gap light emission is reported in n-type unipolar GaN/AlN double-barrier heterostructure diodes at room temperature. Three different designs were grown on semi-insulating bulk GaN substrates using molecular beam epitaxy (MBE). All samples displayed a single electroluminescent spectral peak at 360 nm with full-width at half-maximum (FWHM) values no greater than 16 nm and an external quantum efficiency (EQE) of ≈0.0074% at 18.8 mA. In contrast to traditional GaN light emitters, p-type doping and p-contacts are completely avoided, and instead, holes are created in the GaN on the emitter side of the tunneling structure by direct interband (that is, Zener) tunneling from the valence band to the conduction band on the collector side. The Zener tunneling is enhanced by the high electric fields (~5 × 106 V cm−1) created by the notably large polarization-induced sheet charge at the interfaces between the AlN and GaN.
Skull optical clearing window for in vivo imaging of the mouse cortex at synaptic resolution
Yan-Jie Zhao, Ting-Ting Yu, Chao Zhang, Zhao Li, Qing-Ming Luo, et al.
Published. 2018, 7(1) 17153 doi: 10.1038/lsa.2017.153
Imaging cells and microvasculature in the living brain is crucial to understanding an array of neurobiological phenomena. Here, we introduce a skull optical clearing window for imaging cortical structures at synaptic resolution. Combined with two-photon microscopy, this technique allowed us to repeatedly image neurons, microglia and microvasculature of mice. We applied it to study the plasticity of dendritic spines in critical periods and to visualize dendrites and microglia after laser ablation. Given its easy handling and safety, this method holds great promise for application in neuroscience research.