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Journal Article

Symmetry Breaking of Counter-Propagating Light in a Nonlinear Resonator

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Del Bino, L., Silver, J. M., Stebbings, S. L., & Del'Haye, P. (2017). Symmetry Breaking of Counter-Propagating Light in a Nonlinear Resonator. Scientific Reports, 7: 43142. doi:10.1038/srep43142.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0006-5AC5-7
Spontaneous symmetry breaking is a concept of fundamental importance in many areas of physics, underpinning such diverse phenomena as ferromagnetism, superconductivity, superfluidity and the Higgs mechanism. Here we demonstrate nonreciprocity and spontaneous symmetry breaking between counter-propagating light in dielectric microresonators. The symmetry breaking corresponds to a resonance frequency splitting that allows only one of two counter-propagating (but otherwise identical) states of light to circulate in the resonator. Equivalently, this effect can be seen as the collapse of standing waves and transition to travelling waves within the resonator. We present theoretical calculations to show that the symmetry breaking is induced by Kerr-nonlinearity-mediated interaction between the counter-propagating light. Our findings pave the way for a variety of applications including optically controllable circulators and isolators, all-optical switching, nonlinear-enhanced rotation sensing, optical flip-flops for photonic memories as well as exceptionally sensitive power and refractive index sensors.