Angular momentum, a fundamental physical quantity, can be divided into spin angular momentum (SAM) and orbital angular momentum (OAM) in electromagnetic waves. Helically-phased or twisted light beams carrying OAM that exploit the spatial structure physical dimension of electromagnetic waves have benefited wide applications ranging from optical manipulation to quantum information processing. Using the two distinct properties of OAM, i.e., inherent orthogonality and unbounded states in principle, one can develop OAM modulation and OAM multiplexing techniques for twisted optical communications. OAM multiplexing is an alternative space-division multiplexing approach employing an orthogonal mode basis related to the spatial phase structure. In this paper, we review the recent progress in twisted optical communications using OAM in free space and fiber. The basic concept of momentum, angular momentum, SAM, OAM and OAM-carrying twisted optical communications, key techniques and devices of OAM generation/(de)multiplexing/detection, high-capacity spectrally-efficient free-space OAM links, fiber-based OAM links, and OAM processing functions are presented. Ultra-high spectral efficiency and petabit-scale free-space data links are achieved benefiting from OAM multiplexing. The key techniques and challenges of twisted optical communications are also discussed. Twisted optical communications using OAM are compatible with other existing physical dimensions such as frequency/wavelength, amplitude, phase, polarization and time, opening a possible way to facilitate continuous increase of the aggregate transmission capacity and spectral efficiency through N -dimensional multiplexing.

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