Journal article

Longitudinal-differential interferometry: direct imaging of axial superluminal phase propagation

We introduce and demonstrate a new interferometric method called longitudinal-differential (LD) interferometry, which measures the spatially resolved phase difference of the scattered field by an object relative to the illumination. This method is combined with a high-resolution interference microscope that allows recording three-dimensional field distributions in amplitude and phase. The method is applied to study the axial phase behavior of Arago spots, an effect observable in low-Fresnel-number systems behind objects with a size comparable to the wavelength. We directly observe the initial phase delay in the Arago spot and prove that the local phase velocity exceeds the speed of light in air. Such LD phase studies are applicable not only to the Arago spot but also to other kinds of light interactions with wavelength-scale objects, e. g., photonic nanojets. (C) 2012 Optical Society of America

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