Multiplication of the orbital angular momentum of phonon polaritons via sublinear dispersion

Andrea Mancini, Lin Nan, Rodrigo Berté, Emiliano Cortés, Haoran Ren and Stefan A. Maier

Nature Photonics 3797 (2024)
Optical vortices (OVs) promise to greatly enhance optical information capacity via orbital angular momentum multiplexing. The need for the on-chip integration of orbital angular momentum technologies has prompted research into subwavelength-confined polaritonic OVs. However, the topological order imprinted by the structure used for transduction from free-space beams to surface polaritons is inherently fixed after fabrication. Here we overcome this limitation via dispersion-driven topological charge multiplication. We switch the OV topological charge within a small frequency range (~3%) by leveraging the strong sublinear dispersion of low-loss surface phonon polaritons on silicon carbide membranes. Applying the Huygens principle, we quantitatively evaluate the topological order of experimental OVs detected by near-field imaging. We further explore the deuterogenic effect, which predicts the coexistence of multiple topological charges in higher-order polaritonic OVs. Our work demonstrates a viable method to manipulate the topological charge of polaritonic OVs, paving the way for the exploration of novel orbital-angular-momentum-enabled light–matter interactions at mid-infrared frequencies.