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Efficient delivery of light into nanoscale volumes by converting free photons into localized charge-density oscillations (surface plasmons) enables technological innovation in various fields from biosensing to photovoltaics and quantum computing. Conventional plasmonic nanostructures are designed as nanoscale analogs of radioantennas and waveguides. Here, we discuss an alternative approach for plasmonic nanocircuit engineering that is based on molding the optical powerflow through ‘vortex nanogears’ around a landscape of local phase singularities ‘pinned’ to plasmonic nanostructures. We show that coupling of several vortex nanogears into transmission-like structures results in dramatic optical effects, which can be explained by invoking a hydrodynamic analogy of the ‘photon fluid’. The new concept of vortex nanogear transmissions (VNTs) provides new design principles for the development of complex multi-functional phase-operated photonics machinery and, therefore, generates unique opportunities for light generation, harvesting and processing on the nanoscale.
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