Abstract

Over the past several decades, the need for high-resolution, high-efficiency, lightweight, high-contrast focusing optics has continued to increase due to their applications in fields such as astronomy, spectroscopy, free-space optical communications, defense, and remote sensing. In recent years, photon sieve planar diffractive optics, which are essentially Fresnel zone plates with the rings broken into individual “pinhole” apertures, have been developed on flexible, lightweight polyimide substrates. However, transmission efficiencies have continuously been very low (1%11%) until this work, thus impeding the widespread use of photon sieves in practical applications. Here, we present flexible, lightweight, four- and eight-level phase photon sieves with 25.7% and 49.7% transmission efficiency, respectively, up to five times greater than that of any other photon sieve reported thus far. Additionally, these sieves were fabricated via a single step pulsed laser ablation method. The total time to fabricate a 3cm2 photon sieve via the single-step fabrication was tens of seconds, giving the technique a significant advantage over traditional photolithography used to generate multilevel structures. Analytical analysis of the photon sieve was carried out via the finite-difference time-domain (FDTD) method and was in very good agreement with experimental results. We have also calculated via FDTD modeling the behavior of higher-level photon sieves for further enhanced efficiencies, and analytically show an estimated upper bound on photon sieve efficiency of 70% within the first focal plane null in the limit of increasing step number, and the data presented herein provide a relationship between efficiency and step number. Additionally, this process of multilevel diffractive lens fabrication can be extended to multilevel Fresnel zone plates, which have not previously been demonstrated by this process. The results presented in this work represent a new step in high-resolution diffractive optics, showing efficiencies suitable for widespread applications in addition to drastically reducing the cost and complexity of fabricating multilevel focusing elements.

© 2018 Optical Society of America

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