Researchers unlock light-matter interactions at sub-nanoscales, leading to ‘photonics’

Purdue researchers discover light-matter interactions at subnanometer scales, leading to 'photonics'

This figure shows picophotonic images in the 3D lattice of silicon atoms. The red wave represents the conventional electromagnetic wave propagating in a solid. The blue inner wave represents the expected new picophotonic wave. Credit: Purdue University/Zubin Jacob

Researchers at Purdue University have discovered new waves with picometric-scale spatial variations of electromagnetic fields that can propagate in semiconductors such as silicon. The research team, led by Dr. Zubin Jacob, Elmore Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the Department of Physics and Astronomy, published their findings in Physical review was applied In a paper entitled “Picophotonic images: anomalous atomic waves in silicon”.

“The word microscopic has its origins in the length scale of a micron, which is a million times smaller than a metre. We worked for light The interaction of matter within a picoscopic system is much smaller, as the discrete arrangement of the atomic lattices alters the properties of light in surprising ways,” says Jacob.

These intriguing results demonstrate that natural media host a variety of photonic-rich matter interaction phenomena at the atomic level. The use of picophotonic waves in semiconductor materials may lead researchers to design new functional optical devices, allowing applications in Quantum Technologies.

Photonic-matter-in-materials interaction is central to many photonic devices from lasers to detectors. Over the past decade, the science of nanophotonics, the study of how light flows at the nanometer scale in engineered structures such as photonic crystals Metamaterials have led to important developments. This existing research can be picked up in the field of the classical theory of atomic matter. The current discovery leading to image photography was made possible by a great leap forward using the quantum theory of atomic response in matter. The team consists of Jacob plus Dr. Sathwick Bharadwaj, a research scientist at Purdue University, and Dr. Todd Van Mecklen, a former postdoctoral fellow at Purdue University.

A long-standing puzzle in the field has been the missing link between atomic lattices and their symmetries and the role they play in deep light fields. To answer this conundrum, the Theory team developed the Maxwell Hamiltonian framework for matter along with a quantum theory of light-induced response in materials.

“This is a pivotal shift from the classical light flux treatment applied in the field of nanophotonics,” Jacob says. “The quantum nature of the behavior of light in materials is key to the emergence of picophotonics.”

Bharadwaj and colleagues show that new anomalous waves appear in the atomic lattice, hidden among the well-known classical electromagnetic waves. These light waves are highly oscillating even within a single building block of a silicon crystal (sub-nanometer length scale).

“Natural materials themselves have rich internal crystal lattice symmetries, and light is strongly affected by these symmetries,” Bharadwaj says. “The immediate next goal is to apply our theory to a large number of quantum and topological materials and also to verify experimentally the existence of these new waves.”

“Our group has pioneered research into pico-scale electrodynamic fields within matter at the atomic level,” Jacob says. “We recently launched the Electrodynamics Theory Network, where we convene with diverse researchers to explore macroscopic phenomena emerging from microscopic electrodynamic fields within matter.”

more information:
Sathwik Bharadwaj et al, Picophotonics: Anomalous Atomic Waves in Silicon, Physical review was applied (2022). DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevApplied.18.044065

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