Loss-induced suppression and revival of lasing

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Science  17 Oct 2014:
Vol. 346, Issue 6207, pp. 328-332
DOI: 10.1126/science.1258004

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Achieving gain despite increasing loss

When energy is pumped into an optically active material, the buildup (or gain) of excitations within the material can reach a critical point where the emission of coherent light, or lasing, can occur. In many systems, however, the buildup of the excitations is suppressed by losses within the material. Overturning conventional wisdom that loss is bad and should be minimized, Peng et al. show that carefully tweaking the coupling strength between the various components of a coupled optical system can actually result in an enhancement of the optical properties by adding more loss into the system (see the Perspective by Schwefel). The results may provide a clever design approach to counteract loss in optical devices.

Science, this issue p. 328; see also p. 304