A spiral phase plate with an azimuthal structure has been used as a filter in a system to achieve edge enhancement. Generally such edge-enhanced effect is isotropic, i.e., each edge of an input pattern is enhanced to the same degree regardless of its orientation. We found that one can achieve anisotropic edge enhancement by breaking down the symmetry of the filtering process. This can be done in two ways: first, by use of a fractional spiral phase filter (SPF) with a fractional topological charge and a controllable orientation of the edge discontinuity, and second, by the lateral shifting of the SPF. We interpret this process as a vortex formation due to the diffraction of the Fourier spectrum of the input pattern by a SPF with an integer and fractional topological charge. Optical experiments using a spatial light modulator were carried out to verify our proposal.
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