Nitrogen-vacancy (NV) centers in diamond have emerged as promising room-temperature quantum sensors for probing condensed matter phenomena ranging from spin liquids, two-dimensional (2D) magnetic materials, and magnons to hydrodynamic flow of current. Here we propose and demonstrate that the nitrogen-vacancy center in diamond can be used as a quantum sensor for detecting the photonic spin density, the spatial distribution of light’s spin angular momentum. We exploit a single spin qubit on an atomic force microscope tip to probe the spinning field of an incident Gaussian light beam. The spinning field of light induces an effective static magnetic field in the single spin qubit probe. We perform room-temperature sensing using Bloch sphere operations driven by a microwave field (XY8 protocol). This nanoscale quantum magnetometer can measure the local polarization of light in ultra-sub-wavelength volumes. We also put forth a rigorous theory of the experimentally measured phase change using the NV center Hamiltonian and perturbation theory involving only virtual photon transitions. The direct detection of the photonic spin density at the nanoscale using NV centers in diamond opens interesting quantum metrological avenues for studying exotic phases of photons, nanoscale properties of structured light as well as future on-chip applications in spin quantum electrodynamics.
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.
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.
A chiral absorber of light can emit spin-polarized (circularly polarized) thermal radiation based on Kirchhoff’s law which equates spin-resolved emissivity with spin-resolved absorptivity for reciprocal media at thermal equilibrium. No such law is known for nonreciprocal media. In this work, we discover three spin-resolved Kirchhoff’s laws of thermal radiation applicable for both reciprocal and nonreciprocal planar media. In particular, these laws are applicable to multi-layered or composite slabs of generic bianisotropic material classes which include (uniaxial or biaxial) birefringent crystals, (gyrotropic) Weyl semimetals, magnetized semiconductors, plasmas, ferromagnets and ferrites, (magnetoelectric) topological insulators, metamaterials and multiferroic media. We also propose an experiment to verify these laws using a single system of doped indium antimonide (InSb) thin film in an external magnetic field. Furthermore, we reveal a surprising result that the planar slabs of all these material classes can emit partially circularly polarized thermal light without requiring any surface patterning, and identify planar configurations which can experience nontrivial thermal optomechanical forces and torques upon thermal emission into the external environment at lower temperature (nonequilibrium). Our work also provides a new fundamental insight of detailed balance of angular momentum (in addition to energy) of equilibrium thermal radiation, and paves the way for practical functionalities based on thermal radiation using nonreciprocal bianisotropic materials.
Whispering gallery modes are known for possessing orbital angular momentum, however the interplay of local spin density, orbital angular momentum, and the near-field interaction with quantum emitters is far less explored. Here, we study the spin-orbit interaction of a circularly polarized dipole with the whispering gallery modes (WGMs) of a spherical resonator. Using an exact dyadic Green’s function approach, we show that the near-field interaction between the photonic spin of a circularly polarized dipole and the local electromagnetic spin density of whispering gallery modes gives rise to unidirectional behaviour where modes with either positive or negative orbital angular momentum are excited. We show that this is a manifestation of spin-momentum locking with the whispering gallery modes of the spherical resonator. We also discuss requirements for possible experimental demonstrations using Zeeman transitions in cold atoms or quantum dots, and outline potential applications of these previously overlooked properties. Our work firmly establishes local spin density, momentum and decay as a universal right-handed electromagnetic triplet for near-field light-matter interaction.
The interplay of photon spin and orbital angular momentum (OAM) in the optical fiber (one-dimensional waveguide) has recently risen to the forefront of quantum nanophotonics. Here, we introduce the fermionic dual of the optical fiber, the Dirac wire, which exhibits unique electronic spin and OAM properties arising from confined solutions of the Dirac equation. The Dirac wires analyzed here represent cylindrical generalizations of the Jackiw-Rebbi domain wall and the minimal topological insulator, which are of significant interest in spintronics. We show the unique longitudinal spin arising from electrons confined to propagation in a wire, an effect that is fundamentally prohibited in planar geometries. Our work sheds light on the universal spatial dynamics of electron spin in confined geometries and the duality between electronic and photonic spin.
The interplay of spin angular momentum and thermal radiation is a frontier area of interest to nanophotonics as well as topological physics. Here, we show that a thick planar slab of a nonreciprocal material, despite being at thermal equilibrium with its environment, can exhibit nonzero photon spin angular momentum and nonzero radiative heat flux in its vicinity. We identify them as the persistent thermal photon spin and the persistent planar heat current respectively. With a practical example system, we reveal that the fundamental origin of these phenomena is connected to the spin-momentum locking of thermally excited evanescent waves. We also discover spin magnetic moment of surface polaritons that further clarifies these features. We then propose an imaging experiment based on Brownian motion that allows one to witness these surprising features by directly looking at them using a lab microscope. We further demonstrate the universal behavior of these near-field thermal radiation phenomena through a comprehensive analysis of gyroelectric, gyromagnetic and magneto-electric nonreciprocal materials. Together, these results expose a surprisingly little explored research area of thermal spin photonics with prospects for new avenues related to non-Hermitian topological photonics and radiative heat transport.
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.
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.