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Enantio-sensitive unidirectional light bending

Ayuso, David; Ordonez, Andres F.; Decleva, Piero; Ivanov, Misha; Smirnova, Olga

Structured light, which exhibits nontrivial intensity, phase, and polarization patterns in space, has key applications ranging from imaging and 3D micromanipulation to classical and quantum communication. However, to date, its application to molecular chirality has been limited by the weakness of magnetic interactions. Here we structure light’s local handedness in space to introduce and realize an enantio-sensitive interferometer for efficient chiral recognition without magnetic interactions, which can be seen as an enantio-sensitive version of Young’s double slit experiment. Upon interaction with isotropic chiral media, such chirality-structured light effectively creates chiral emitters of opposite handedness, located at different positions in space. We show that if the distribution of light’s handedness breaks left-right symmetry, the interference of these chiral emitters leads to unidirectional bending of the emitted light, in opposite directions in media of opposite handedness, even if the number of the left-handed and right-handed emitters excited in the medium is exactly the same. Our work introduces the concepts of polarization of chirality and chirality-polarized light, exposes the immense potential of sculpting light’s local chirality, and offers novel opportunities for efficient chiral discrimination, enantio-sensitive optical molecular fingerprinting and imaging on ultrafast time scales.
Published in: Nature Communications, 10.1038/s41467-021-24118-4, Springer Nature