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Researchers at the Joint Quantum Institute (JQI) have created the first silicon chip that can reliably constrain light to its four corners. The effect, which arises from interfering optical pathways, isn't altered by small defects during fabrication and could eventually enable the creation of robust sources of quantum light.
That robustness is due to topological physics, which describes the properties of materials that are insensitive to small changes in geometry. The cornering of light, which was reported June 17 in Nature Photonics, is a realization of a new topological effect, first predicted in 2017.
Work - Demonstration - Physics - Quadrupole - Arrangement
In particular, the new work is a demonstration of quadrupole topological physics. A quadrupole is an arrangement of four poles—sinks and sources of force fields such as electrical charges or the poles of a magnet. You can visualize an electric quadrupole by imagining charges on each corner of a square that alternate positive-negative-positive-negative as you go along the perimeter.
The fact that the cornering arises from quadrupole physics instead of the physics of dipoles—that is, arrangements of just two poles—means it a higher-order topological effect.
Effect - Systems - Work - Time - System
Although the cornering effect has been observed in acoustic and microwave systems before, the new work is the first time it's been observed in an optical system, says JQI Fellow Mohammad Hafezi, the paper's senior author. "We have been developing integrated silicon photonic systems to realize ideas derived from topology in a physical system," Hafezi says. "The fact that we use components compatible with current technology means that, if these systems are robust, they could possibly be translated into immediate applications."
In the new work, laser light is injected into a grid of resonators—grooved loops in the silicon that confine the light to rings. By placing the resonators at carefully measured distances, it's possible to adjust the interaction between neighboring resonators and alter the path that...
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