2016 Moseley Medal and prize of the Institute of Physics

Dr Jacopo Bertolotti, University of Exeter, for his contributions to the understanding and exploitation of light scattering both in natural and in artificial materials.

Photo of Jacopo Bertolotti

Dr Jacopo Bertolotti is a skilled experimentalist who also has a deep understanding of theoretical physics. He has become a leading figure in optical physics, with research centred on the idea that disorder in optics can be a resource – not a hindrance.

Bertolotti, a lecturer in physics at the University of Exeter, has made important contributions to the field of light scattering and wave transport, including the demonstration that, in certain classes of materials, multiply scattered light does not perform a Brownian random walk, as is common for most systems. Instead, it can propagate via a Lévy flight, which is typified by rare but extremely long steps that lead to what is known as superdiffusive propagation. Materials possessing this property, known as Lévy glasses, are characterised by the presence of scale-invariant fluctuations in the density of the scatterers, and provided the first platform for the study of the superdiffusion of light in the laboratory.

More recently, he developed a technique that exploits the properties of scattered light, in the form of the optical memory effect, to non-invasively image an object completely hidden behind a strongly scattering layer. Bertolotti showed that, although the scattering layer completely scrambles the light, making the object appear like a shapeless diffused halo, a careful exploitation of the speckle correlations provides enough information about the object to faithfully reconstruct its shape without any need for invasive procedures. This opens the pathway for imaging objects such as cancerous tissue even in heavily scattering media.

Bertolotti won a Philip Leverhulme Prize for Physics in 2015.