Optical spin-to-orbital angular momentum conversion in inhomogeneous anisotropic media

Phys Rev Lett. 2006 Apr 28;96(16):163905. doi: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.96.163905. Epub 2006 Apr 28.


We demonstrate experimentally an optical process in which the spin angular momentum carried by a circularly polarized light beam is converted into orbital angular momentum, leading to the generation of helical modes with a wave-front helicity controlled by the input polarization. This phenomenon requires the interaction of light with matter that is both optically inhomogeneous and anisotropic. The underlying physics is also associated with the so-called Pancharatnam-Berry geometrical phases involved in any inhomogeneous transformation of the optical polarization.