Optically Controlled Development of a Waveguide from a Reservoir of Microparticles

Karpinski P., Sznitko L., Wisniewska-Belej M., Miniewicz A., Antosiewicz T.J.

Small Methods

7(7), 2023, art. 2201545, 10.1002/smtd.202201545

Light can be guided without diffraction in prefabricated structures: optical fibers and waveguides or in actively created spatial solitons in optically nonlinear media. Here, an approach in which a self-stabilized optical waveguide develops from a reservoir of building blocks—spherical polymer microparticles (MPs)—and is pushed through an optically passive medium—water—is presented. The optical waveguide, formed by a chain of these microparticles and one microsphere wide, is self-stabilized and propelled by the guided light, while its geometrical and dynamical properties depend on the diameter-to-wavelength ratio. The smallest investigated particles, 500 nm in diameter, form single-mode waveguides up to tens of micrometers long, with the length limited only by optical losses. In contrast, waveguides constructed of larger MPs, 1 and 2.5 µm in diameter, are limited in length to only a few particles due to interference of different modes and beating of light intensity.