An innovative microlaser wins the 2020 Aspen Institute Italia Award

Professor Stefano Longhi receives the prize alongside a team from the State University of New York at Buffalo

The Aspen Institute Italia Award for scientific research and collaboration between Italy and the United States, now in its fifth year, has rewarded an innovative laser of micrometric size that produces a special twisted light destined to revolutionise the world's telecommunications systems in the near future.

The research stems from a five-year collaboration between Stefano Longhi, professor at the Physics Department of the Politecnico di Milano, and a team of six researchers of the State University of New York at Buffalo.

The laser, conceived and developed by the research group, has a smaller diameter than that of a single strand of hair and generates twisted light, i.e. light that twists during propagation, thus giving rise both to pressure and to a swirling wave, vorticity - along with colour - being a property of light.

Current communication systems use the different colours of light to encode and transmit information along thin glass wires, known as optical fibres. Scientists are now seeking to encode information by means of other properties of light as well.

The main idea is that we can encode information in the swirling motion of light as well as in its colour. The ability to generate and propagate this new form of light is a great challenge for us scientists and engineers

explained Prof. Longhi in his award ceremony speech.

This type of technology will respond to the need of the telecommunications world to transmit an increasing amount of data.

If you think of a telecommunications system that uses twisted light as a complex puzzle made up of many elements, then our invention has just provided the key piece to the puzzle

concluded Prof. Longhi.