Van Mechelen, Todd, Wenbo Sun, and Zubin Jacob. (2021) 2021. “Optical N-invariant of graphene’s topological viscous Hall fluid”. Nature Communications 12, 4729.

Over the past three decades, graphene has become the prototypical platform for discovering topological phases of matter. Both the Chern C 2 Z and quantum spin Hall υ 2 Z2 insulators were first predicted in graphene, which led to a veritable explosion of research in topological materials. We introduce a new topological classification of two-dimensional matter – the optical N-phases N 2 Z. This topological quantum number is connected to polarization transport and captured solely by the spatiotemporal dispersion of the susceptibility tensor χ. We verify N ≠ 0 in graphene with the underlying physical mechanism being repulsive Hall viscosity. An experimental probe, evanescent magneto-optic Kerr effect (e-MOKE) spectroscopy, is proposed to explore the N-invariant. We also develop topological circulators by exploiting gapless edge plasmons that are immune to back-scattering and navigate sharp defects with impunity. Our work indicates that graphene with repulsive Hall viscosity is the first candidate material for a topological electromagnetic phase of matter.

Yang, Li-Ping, and Zubin Jacob. (2021) 2021. “Non-classical photonic spin texture of quantum structured light”. Communications Physics 4,221.

Classical structured light with controlled polarization and orbital angular momentum (OAM)of electromagnetic waves has varied applications in optical trapping, bio-sensing, optical communications, and quantum simulations. However, quantum noise and photon statistics of three-dimensional photonic angular momentum are relatively less explored. Here, we develop a quantum framework and put forth the concept of quantum structured light for space-time wavepackets at the single-photon level. Our work deals with three-dimensional angular momentum observables for twisted quantum pulses beyond scalar-field theory as well as the paraxial approximation. We show that the spin density generates modulated helical texture and exhibits distinct photon statistics for Fock-state vs. coherent-state twisted pulses. We introduce the quantum correlator of photon spin density to characterize nonlocal spin noise providing a rigorous parallel with electronic spin noise. Our work can lead to quantum spin-OAM physics in twisted single-photon pulses and opens explorations for phases of light with long-range spin order.

Khosravi, Farhad, Maximilian M. Sonner, and Zubin Jacob. 2021. “Ultrafast electron cycloids driven by the transverse spin of a surface acoustic wave”. Science Advances 7 (31).

Spin-momentum locking is a universal wave phenomenon promising for applications in electronics and photonics. In acoustics, Lord Rayleigh showed that surface acoustic waves exhibit a characteristic elliptical particle motion strikingly similar to spin-momentum locking. Although these waves have become one of the few phononic technologies of industrial relevance, the observation of their transverse spin remained an open challenge. Here, we observe the full spin dynamics by detecting ultrafast electron cycloids driven by the gyrating electric field produced by a surface acoustic wave propagating on a slab of lithium niobate. A tubular quantum well wrapped around a nanowire serves as an ultrafast sensor tracking the full cyclic motion of electrons. Our acousto-optoelectrical approach opens previously unknown directions in the merged fields of nanoacoustics, nanophotonics, and nanoelectronics for future exploration.

Khandekar, Chinmay, Li-Ping Yang, Alejandro W. Rodriguez, and Zubin Jacob. 2020. “Quantum nonlinear mixing of thermal photons to surpass the blackbody limit”. Opt. Express 28 (2): 2045-59.

Nearly all thermal radiation phenomena involving materials with linear response can be accurately described via semi-classical theories of light. Here, we go beyond these traditional paradigms to study a nonlinear system that, as we show, requires quantum theory of damping. Specifically, we analyze thermal radiation from a resonant system containing a χ (2) nonlinear medium and supporting resonances at frequencies ω1 and ω2 ≈ 2ω1, where both resonators are driven only by intrinsic thermal fluctuations. Within our quantum formalism, we reveal new possibilities for shaping the thermal radiation. We show that the resonantly enhanced nonlinear interaction allows frequency-selective enhancement of thermal emission through upconversion, surpassing the well-known blackbody limits associated with linear media. Surprisingly, we also find that the emitted thermal light exhibits non-trivial statistics (g (2) (0) , ∼2) and biphoton intensity correlations (at two distinct frequencies). We highlight that these features can be observed in the near future by heating a properly designed nonlinear system, without the need for any external signal. Our work motivates new interdisciplinary inquiries combining the fields of nonlinear photonics, quantum optics and thermal science.

Shekhar, Prashant, Sarang Pendharker, Douglas Vick, Marek Malac, and Zubin Jacob. 2019. “Fast electrons interacting with a natural hyperbolic medium: bismuth telluride”. Optics Express 27 (5): 6970-75.

Fast electrons interacting with matter have been instrumental for probing bulk and surface photonic excitations including Cherenkov radiation and plasmons. Additionally, fast electrons are ideal to investigate unique bulk and longitudinal photonic modes in hyperbolic materials at large wavevectors difficult to probe optically. Here, we use momentum-resolved electron energy loss spectroscopy (k-EELS) to perform the first experimental demonstration of high-k modes and hyperbolic Cherenkov radiation in the natural hyperbolic material Bi2Te3. This work establishes Bi2Te3 as one of the few viable natural hyperbolic materials in the visible and paves the way for k-EELS as a fundamental tool to probe hyperbolic media.

Pendharker, Sarang, Farid Kalhor, Todd Van Mechelen, Saman Jahani, Neda Nazemifard, Thomas Thundat, and Zubin Jacob. 2018. “Spin photonic forces in non-reciprocal waveguides”. Optics Express 26 (18): 23898-910.

Optical forces acting on particles - controlled by the intensity, polarization and direction of optical beams - have become an important tool in manipulation, sorting and analysis of nano/micro-particles. The nature of these forces has been well understood in reciprocal structures exhibiting time-reversal symmetries. Here, we investigate the nature of optical forces in non-reciprocal structures with non-degenerate counter-propagating modes. We consider the specific case of non-reciprocity induced via translational motion and show that the two counter-propagating modes in a moving slab-waveguide are not degenerate which results in a non-zero lateral and longitudinal force on a nanoparticle. We prove that these anomalous forces are fundamentally connected to near-field photonic spin in optical waveguides and explain their directionality using universal spin-momentum locking of evanescent waves. The presented results show that the interplay of photon spin and non-reciprocity can lead to unique avenues of controlling nanoscale optical forces on-chip.

Van Mechelan, Todd, and Zubin Jacob. 2016. “Universal spin-momentum locking of evanescent waves”. Optica 3 (2): 118-26.

We show the existence of an inherent property of evanescent electromagnetic waves: spin-momentum locking, where the direction of momentum fundamentally locks the polarization of the wave. We trace the ultimate origin of this phenomenon to complex dispersion and causality requirements on evanescent waves. We demonstrate that every case of evanescent waves in total internal reflection (TIR), surface states, and optical fibers/waveguides possesses this intrinsic spin-momentum locking. We also introduce a universal right-handed triplet consisting of momentum, decay, and spin for evanescent waves. We derive the Stokes parameters for evanescent waves, which reveal an intriguing result—every fast decaying evanescent wave is inherently circularly polarized with its handedness tied to the direction of propagation. We also show the existence of a fundamental angle associated with TIR such that propagating waves locally inherit perfect circular polarized characteristics from the evanescent wave. This circular TIR condition occurs if and only if the ratio of permittivities of the two dielectric media exceeds the golden ratio. Our work leads to a unified understanding of this spin-momentum locking in various nanophotonic experiments and sheds light on the electromagnetic analogy with the quantum spin-Hall state for electrons.

Yang, Li-Ping, and Zubin Jacob. 2019. “Quantum critical detector: amplifying weak signals using discontinuous quantum phase transitions”. Optics Express 27 (8): 10482-94.

We propose a quantum critical detector (QCD) to amplify weak input signals. Our detector exploits a first-order discontinuous quantum-phase-transition and exhibits giant sensitivity (χ ∝ N2) when biased at the critical point. We propose a model consisting of spins with long-range interactions coupled to a bosonic mode to describe the time-dynamics in the QCD. We numerically demonstrate dynamical features of the first order (discontinuous) quantum phase transition such as time-dependent quantum gain in a system with 80 interacting spins. We also show the linear scaling with the spin number N in both the quantum gain and the corresponding signal-to-quantum noise ratio during the time evolution of the device. Our work shows that engineering first order discontinuous quantum phase transitions can lead to a device application for metrology, weak signal amplification, and single photon detection.