Colloquia & Guest Speakers

Nonlinear and Singular Optics in the Meta-World

Natalia M. Litchinitser, University at Buffalo, SUNY

Monday, February 23, 2015
3 p.m.–4 p.m.

Goergen 101, Sloan Auditorium


We discuss fundamental optical phenomena at the interface of singular and nonlinear optics and metamaterials, including theoretical and experimental studies of linear and nonlinear light-matter interactions of vector and singular optical beams in optical metamaterials.  Understanding the physics of the interaction of complex beams with nanostructured “engineered” media is likely to bring new dimensions to the science and applications of complex light, including novel regimes of spin-orbit interaction, extraordinary possibilities for dispersion engineering, and novel possibilities for nonlinear singular optics.

We show that unique optical properties of metamaterials open unlimited prospects to “engineer” light itself. For example, we demonstrate a novel way of complex light manipulation in few-mode optical fibers using metamaterials highlighting how unique properties of metamaterials, namely the ability to manipulate both electric and magnetic field components, open new degrees of freedom in engineering complex polarization states of light.  We discuss several approaches to ultra-compact structured light generation, including a nanoscale beam converter based on an ultra-compact array of nano-waveguides with a circular graded distribution of channel diameters that coverts a conventional laser beam into a vortex with configurable orbital angular momentum. Such beam converters is likely to enable a new generation of on-chip or all-fiber structured light applications. We also present our initial theoretical studies predicting that vortex-based nonlinear optical processes, such as second harmonic generation or parametric amplification that rely on phase matching, will also be strongly modified in negative index materials. We predict that second harmonic generation with structured light in the negative index material results in a possibility of generating a backward propagating beam with simultaneously doubled frequency, orbital angular momentum, and reversed rotation direction of the wavefront. Finally, we will discuss nonlinear effects enhanced and modified owing to resonant absorption and anomalous field enhancement in realistic plasmonic transition metamaterials − artificial materials with the refractive index gradually changing from positive to negative values as well as electromagnetic wave manipulation in free-space hyperbolic metamaterials originating from light filamentation in air.

These studies may find applications for multidimensional information encoding, secure communications, and quantum cryptography as both spin and orbital angular momentum could be used to encode information; dispersion engineering for spontaneous parametric down-conversion; and on-chip optoelectronic signal processing.


Natalia Litchinitser is a Professor of Electrical Engineering at University at Buffalo, The State University of New York. Her group research focuses on fundamental properties and applications structured light in metamaterials, biomedical imaging, optical communications and nonlinear optics. Natalia M. Litchinitser earned her Ph.D. degree in Electrical Engineering from the Illinois Institute of Technology and a Master’s degree in Physics from Moscow State University in Russia. She completed postdoctoral training in Professor Govind Agrawal’s research group at the Institute of Optics, University of Rochester in 2000. Prof. Litchinitser joined the faculty of the department of Electrical Engineering at the State University of New York at Buffalo as Assistant Professor in 2008. Natalia Litchinitser previously held a position of a Member of Technical Staff at Bell Laboratories, Lucent Technologies and of a Senior Member of Technical Staff at Tyco Submarine Systems. Natalia Litchinitser’s research interests include linear and nonlinear optics in metamaterials, photonic devices, and optical communications. She authored 7 invited book chapters, over 100 journal and conference research papers. She is a Fellow of the Optical Society of America, Fellow of the American Physical Society, and a Senior Member of the IEEE. She holds grants from US National Science Foundation and US Army Research Office. She is a recipient of The 2014 Exceptional Scholar Award for Sustained Achievement.