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Eden's team demonstrates first laser to generate laser beams with fractal pattern


Janet McGreevy, MNTL

James Gary Eden
James Gary Eden
Intel Alumni Endowed Chair in Electrical and Computer Engineering James Gary Eden's research team has demonstrated the first laser to generate laser beams having a fractal pattern. The team includes ECE ILLINOIS graduate students Austin William Steinforth and Thomas Casey Galvin, and bioengineering graduate student Jose A. Rivera. Eden is also affiliated with the CSL and MNTL. The research group’s paper, “Fractal Modes and Multi-beam Generation from Hybrid Microlaser Resonators” was published in July by Nature Communications.

A fractal is a geometric image based on a particular basic pattern or design that is repeated throughout, but is progressively reduced in size as the image is constructed. Fractals often occur in nature. Examples include snowflakes, neurons, and even a particular type of broccoli known as Romaneso broccoli. The Sierpinski Triangle (or Sierpinski Sieve) and the Menger Sponge are well-known examples in mathematics.

Fig. 3 from the team's paper, including observed and calculated fractal laser modes for three and four microsphere topologies.
Fig. 3 from the team's paper, including observed and calculated fractal laser modes for three and four microsphere topologies.

Conventional lasers produce Gaussian beams having cross-sectional shapes determined primarily by the separation between the two laser mirrors and their radii of curvature. In contrast, laser fractal modes were discovered by placing arrays of microspheres in the laser resonator, which led to fractal laser modes being produced in the gaps (interstices) between the spheres. If the spheres were "close-packed," forming a hexagonal pattern, the fractal laser modes consisted of triangles of differing sizes. When a gap was carefully opened in the microsphere, the resulting fractal patterns comprised the superposition of rectangles or squares.

Eden commented on the relevance and impact of this discovery. “One significant aspect of this work is that laser beam cross-sectional patterns are no longer confined to the specific parameters of the laser resonator but can now be designed to match a mathematical expression. This, in turn, suggests that fractal laser modes will be of continuing interest in their own right, but also for optical information processing and imaging.”

Eden is the Director of the Laboratory for Optical Physics and Engineering in Electrical & Computer Engineering, and the Principal Investigator for the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) grant that supported this work. Eden also acted as the PhD advisor for Rivera and Galvin, and he is currently Steinforth's advisor.

Read their full paper at Nature Communications and learn more on the MNTL website.