Materials Views: Tunnelling-induced transparency in a chaotic microcavity

[Adopted from Materials Views, July 1, 2013; Contributed by Guido Fuchs]

Making an opaque medium transparent has been of long-term interest for many researchers. For example, a single atom can be made transparent for an on-resonance light probe in a process known as electromagnetically induced transparency (EIT), a phenomenon resulting from the destructive interference between excitation pathways to the upper level. A further interesting effect of induced transparency is not only the transparency itself, but also the large dispersion at the point of minimal absorption.

Left, a free-space beam coupled to achaotic microcavity where the high-Q cavity mode distribution is displayed in the bottom; Right, two typical transmission spectra showing induced transparency.

Recently, a team from Peking University reported a way to make a chaotic microcavity transparent for a free-space laser beam. Their experimental results were published in Laser & Photonics Reviews. The narrow transparency peaks have been observed in the transmission spectra, revealing the transparency of chaotic scattering in the microcavity. The brand-new induced transparency is attributed to the destructive interference of two optical pathways: one is to directly excite the continuous chaos from the incident beam, and the other excites the high-Q mode coupling back to the chaos.

“Chaos-assisted tunneling is the key to make the deformed silica microcavity transparent,” said Professor Yun-Feng Xiao, the leading scientist of the team. In the world of classical physics, the Fresnel’s law can predict the motion of rays in a microcavity. However, this chaos-assisted tunneling violates the classical law of ray reflection and represents a formal analogue to dynamical tunneling, which is known as a pure quantum mechanical phenomenon. Therefore a free-space beam can indirectly excite the high-Q modes of the microcavity even without phase matching. In particular, this kind of dynamical tunneling produces a Pi phase shift when chaotic light couples to the high-Q mode and returns, because the high-Q mode can be regarded as potential barrier.

Induced transparency is always accompanied with normal dispersion. In tunneling-induced transparency, a steep normal dispersion appears around resonance. “It may open up new possibilities in optical information processing, such as a dramatic slow light behavior and a significant enhancement of nonlinear interactions,” Yun-Feng Xiao said.