Engineering spin-orbit synthetic Hamiltonians in liquid-crystal optical cavities

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Science  08 Nov 2019:
Vol. 366, Issue 6466, pp. 727-730
DOI: 10.1126/science.aay4182

Inducing optical spin-orbit coupling

The coupling of the spin-orbit interactions in solid-state systems can give rise to a wide range of exotic electronic transport effects. But solid-state systems tend to be somewhat limited in their flexibility because the spin-orbit coupling is fixed. By contrast, optical systems have recently been shown to mimic complex solid-state systems, with flexibility in design providing the ability to control and manipulate the system properties. Using a liquid crystal–filled photonic cavity, Rechcińska et al. emulated an artificial Rashba-Dresselhaus spin-orbit coupling in a photonic system and showed control of an artificial Zeeman splitting. The results illustrate a powerful approach of engineering synthetic Hamiltonians with photons for the simulation of nontrivial condensed matter and quantum phenomena.

Science, this issue p. 727


Spin-orbit interactions lead to distinctive functionalities in photonic systems. They exploit the analogy between the quantum mechanical description of a complex electronic spin-orbit system and synthetic Hamiltonians derived for the propagation of electromagnetic waves in dedicated spatial structures. We realize an artificial Rashba-Dresselhaus spin-orbit interaction in a liquid crystal–filled optical cavity. Three-dimensional tomography in energy-momentum space enabled us to directly evidence the spin-split photon mode in the presence of an artificial spin-orbit coupling. The effect is observed when two orthogonal linear polarized modes of opposite parity are brought near resonance. Engineering of spin-orbit synthetic Hamiltonians in optical cavities opens the door to photonic emulators of quantum Hamiltonians with internal degrees of freedom.

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