Shaping caustics into propagation-invariant light

Alessandro Zannotti, Cornelia Denz, Miguel A. Alonso, Mark Dennis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Structured light has revolutionized optical particle manipulation, nano-scaled material processing, and high-resolution imaging. In particular, propagation-invariant light fields such as Bessel, Airy, or Mathieu beams show high robustness and have a self-healing nature. To generalize such beneficial features, these light fields can be understood in terms of caustics. However, only simple caustics have found applications in material processing, optical trapping, or cell microscopy. Thus, these technologies would greatly benefit from methods to engineer arbitrary intensity shapes well beyond the standard families of caustics. We introduce a general approach to arbitrarily shape propagation-invariant beams by smart beam design based on caustics. We develop two complementary methods, and demonstrate various propagation-invariant beams experimentally, ranging from simple geometric shapes to complex image configurations such as words. Our approach generalizes caustic light from the currently known small subset to a complete set of tailored propagation-invariant caustics with intensities concentrated around any desired curve.
Original languageEnglish
Article number3597
JournalNature Communications
Publication statusPublished - 17 Jul 2020


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