Light permeates our daily life. It enables the vision of objects, but it is also a formidable vehicle of information: as a powerful example, the use of optical fibers for signal communication, which have contributed to the development of the Internet.
Its fortune lies, in particular, in the possibility of superimposing light signals that propagate along a single path. At will, the signals should be also divided one from the other in order to be manipulated or received. So far this problem, in telecommunications as well as biomedical imaging or display technology, has been solved through the use of mirrors that, moved electromechanically, direct the light along different directions. The electronic mechanism that moves the mirror, however, is difficult to integrate into microcircuits and complex to manage.
Now a study on "Advanced Optical Materials" led by the Department of Physics of the University of Florence and the European Non-linear Spectroscopy Laboratory (LENS), opens a new perspective with the use of photonics — that part of optical science that studies the control of light propagation on scales one million times smaller than one meter (“micrometer”). The project has seen the participation of the National Institute of Optics of the National Research Council (INO-CNR).