Grant Could Spark ‘Breakthrough’ Optical, Wireless Technologies

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The W. M. Keck Foundation has awarded a $1 million grant to Tulane physicists Denys Bondar (left) and Diyar Talbayev to complete an unsolved experiment involving superoscillations of light. (Photos courtesy of Tulane’s Department of Physics and Physics Engineering)

NEW ORLEANS – Tulane University’s School of Science and Engineering has been awarded a $1 million grant from the W. M. Keck Foundation to do what no physicist has ever done before: see through opaque matter using superoscillations of light in a time-domain spectroscopy lab. 

That phrase might be difficult for the layperson to grasp, but its results could eventually transform a wide range of fields and technologies, from wireless communications and remote sensing to X-rays and security screenings.

The Keck grant will fund the work of physics professors Diyar Talbayev and Denys Bondar. 

“Once again, through the generosity of the Keck Foundation, Tulane is on the leading edge of invention and discovery,” Tulane President Michael Fitts said. “In this era when so much human interaction, culture, commerce and discovery is driven by technological advancements, a breakthrough such as the one being pursued by these researchers could have far-reaching global impacts, improving and even saving lives worldwide.”

Superoscillations of light have never been explored in the time domain, largely because they can’t be measured by conventional light sensors like the human eye or cameras. In producing and studying time-domain superoscillations for the first time, Tulane’s project aims to complete a theoretical experiment that has gone unsolved since it was first proposed 30 years ago by Israeli physicist Yakir Aharonov.  

The colors of light differ by their wavelength, which is the distance between two neighboring crests of an electromagnetic wave. For this experiment, the Tulane team will be using wavelengths close to 0.3 millimeters, which occupy the far-infrared region of the light spectrum.

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