Zhujing Xu, Xingyu Gao, Jaehoon Bang, Zubin Jacob, and Tongcang Li. 12/13/2021. Non-reciprocal energy transfer through the Casimir effect. Nature Nanotechnology.

One of the fundamental predictions of quantum mechanics is the occurrence of random fluctuations in a vacuum caused by zero-point energy. Remarkably, quantum electromagnetic fluctuations can induce a measurable force between neutral objects, known as the Casimir effect1, and it has been studied both theoretically2,3 and experimentally4-9. The Casimir effect can dominate the interaction between microstructures at small separations and is essential for micro-and nanotechnologies10,11. It has been utilized to realize nonlinear oscillation12, quantum trapping13, phonon transfer14,15, and dissipation dilution16. However, a non-reciprocal device based on quantum vacuum fluctuations remains an unexplored frontier. Here we report quantum-vacuum-mediated non-reciprocal energy transfer between two micromechanical oscillators. We parametrically modulate the Casimir interaction to realize a strong coupling between the two oscillators with different resonant frequencies. We engineer the system's spectrum such that it possesses an exceptional point17-20 in the parameter space and explore the asymmetric topological structure in its vicinity. By dynamically changing the parameters near the exceptional point and utilizing the non-adiabaticity of the process, we achieve non-reciprocal energy transfer between the two oscillators with high contrast. Our work demonstrates a scheme that employs quantum vacuum fluctuations to regulate energy transfer at the nanoscale and may enable functional Casimir devices in the future.

Yifan Wang, Chinmay Khandekar, Xingyu Gao, Tongcang Li, Dan Jiao, and Zubin Jacob. 10/25/2021. Broadband circularly polarized thermal radiation from magnetic Weyl semimetals. Optical Materials Express, 11, 11, Pp. 3880-3895.

We numerically demonstrate that a planar slab made of magnetic Weyl semimetal (a class of topological materials) can emit high-purity circularly polarized (CP) thermal radiation over a broad mid- and long-wave infrared wavelength range for a significant portion of its emission solid angle. This effect fundamentally arises from the strong infrared gyrotropy or nonreciprocity of these materials, which primarily depends on the momentum separation between Weyl nodes in the band structure. We clarify the dependence of this effect on the underlying physical parameters and highlight that the spectral bandwidth of CP thermal emission increases with increasing momentum separation between the Weyl nodes. We also demonstrate, using the recently developed thermal discrete dipole approximation (TDDA) computational method, that finite-size bodies of magnetic Weyl semimetals can emit spectrally broadband CP thermal light, albeit over smaller portion of the emission solid angle compared to the planar slabs. Our work identifies unique fundamental and technological prospects of magnetic Weyl semimetals for engineering thermal radiation and designing efficient CP light sources.

Zhujing Xu, Zubin Jacob, and Tongcang Li. 1/1/2021. Enhancement of rotational vacuum friction by surface photon tunneling. Nanophotonics, 10, 1, Pp. 537-543.

When a neutral sphere is rotating near a surface in vacuum, it will experience a frictional torque due to quantum and thermal electromagnetic fluctuations. Such vacuum friction has attracted many interests but has been too weak to be observed. Here we investigate the vacuum frictional torque on a barium strontium titanate (BST) nanosphere near a BST surface. BST is a perovskite ferroelectric ceramic that can have large dielectric responses at GHz frequencies. At resonant rotating frequencies, the mechanical energy of motion can be converted to electromagnetic energy through resonant photon tunneling, leading to a large enhancement of the vacuum friction. The calculated vacuum frictional torques at resonances at subGHz and GHz frequencies are several orders larger than the minimum torque measured by an optically levitated nanorotor recently, and are thus promising to be observed experimentally. Moreover, we calculate the vacuum friction on a rotating sphere near a layered surface for the first time. By optimizing the thickness of the thin-film coating, the frictional torque can be further enhanced by several times.

Xingyu Gao, Chinmay Khandekar, Zubin Jacob, and Tongcang Li. 12/6/2020. Thermal equilibrium spin torque: Near-field radiative angular momentum transfer in magneto-optical media. Physical Review B, 103, 12.

Spin and orbital angular momentum of light plays a central role in quantum nanophotonics as well as topological electrodynamics. Here, we show that the thermal radiation from finite-size bodies comprising nonreciprocal magneto-optical materials can exert a spin torque even in global thermal equilibrium. Moving beyond the paradigm of near-field heat transfer, we calculate near-field radiative angular momentum transfer between finite-size nonreciprocal objects by combining Rytov's fluctuational electrodynamics with the theory of optical angular momentum. We prove that a single magneto-optical cubic particle in nonequilibrium with its surroundings experiences a torque in the presence of an applied magnetic field (T-symmetry breaking). Furthermore, even in global thermal equilibrium, two particles with misaligned gyrotropy axes experience equal-magnitude torques with opposite signs which tend to align their gyrotropy axes parallel to each other. Our results are universally applicable to semiconductors like InSb (magnetoplasmas) as well as Weyl semimetals which exhibit the anomalous Hall effect (gyrotropic) at infrared frequencies. Our work paves the way towards near-field angular momentum transfer mediated by thermal fluctuations for nanoscale devices.

Li-Ping Yang, Chinmay Khandekar, Tongcang Li, and Zubin Jacob. 2/26/2020. Single photon pulse induced transient entanglement force. New Journal of Physics, 22, 2, Pp. 023037.

We show that a single photon pulse incident on two interacting two-level atoms induces a transient entanglement force between them. After absorption of a multi-mode Fock state pulse, the time-dependent atomic interaction mediated by the vacuum fluctuations changes from the van der Waals interaction to the resonant dipole–dipole interaction (RDDI). We explicitly show that the RDDI force induced by the single photon pulse fundamentally arises from the two-body transient entanglement between the atoms. This single photon pulse induced entanglement force can be continuously tuned from being repulsive to attractive by varying the polarization of the pulse. We further demonstrate that the entanglement force can be enhanced by more than three orders of magnitude if the atomic interactions are mediated by graphene plasmons. These results demonstrate the potential of shaped single photon pulses as a powerful tool to manipulate this entanglement force and also provides a new approach to witness transient atom–atom entanglement.

Chinmay Khandekar, Li-Ping Yang, Alejandro W. Rodriguez, and Zubin Jacob. 1/20/2020. Quantum nonlinear mixing of thermal photons to surpass the blackbody limit. Opt. Express, 28, 2, Pp. 2045-2059.

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.

Chinmay Khandekar and Zubin Jacob. 7/26/2019. Circularly Polarized Thermal Radiation From Nonequilibrium Coupled Antennas. Physical Review Applied, 12, 1, Pp. 014053.

Circularly polarized light can be obtained by using either polarization conversion or structural chirality. Here we reveal a fundamentally unrelated mechanism of generating circularly polarized light using coupled nonequilibrium sources. We show that thermal emission from a compact dimer of subwavelength, anisotropic antennas can be highly circularly polarized when the antennas are at unequal temperatures. Furthermore, the handedness of emitted light is flipped upon interchanging the temperatures of the antennas, thereby enabling reconfigurability of the polarization state lacked by most circularly polarized light sources. We describe the fundamental origin of this mechanism using rigorous fluctuational electrodynamic analysis and further provide practical examples for its experimental implementation. Apart from the technology applications in reconfigurable devices, communication, and sensing, this work motivates new inquiries of angular-momentum-related thermal-radiation phenomena using thermal nonequilibrium, without applying magnetic field.

Sean Molesky and Zubin Jacob. 3/18/2019. Definition of polaritonic fluctuations in natural hyperbolic media. Physical Review A, 99, 3, Pp. 033833.

The discovery of photonic hyperbolic dispersion surfaces in certain van der Waals bonded solids, such as hexagonal boron nitride and bismuth selenide (a topological insulator), offers intriguing possibilities for creating strongly modified light-matter interactions. However, open problems exist in quantifying electromagnetic field fluctuations in these media, complicating typical approaches for modeling photonic characteristics. Here, we address this issue by linking the identifying traits of hyperbolic response to a coupling between longitudinal and transverse fields that cannot occur in isotropic media. This description allows us to formulate a gauge theoretic description of the influence of hyperbolic response on electromagnetic fluctuations without explicitly imposing a characteristic size (model of nonlocality)—leading to formally bounded expressions so long as material absorption is included. We then apply this framework to two exemplary areas: the optical sum rule for modified spontaneous emission enhancement in a general uniaxial medium and thermal electromagnetic field fluctuations in hexagonal boron nitride and bismuth selenide. We find that while the sum rule is satisfied, it does not constrain the enhancement of light-matter interactions in either case. We also show that both hexagonal boron nitride and bismuth selenide possess broad spectral regions where the magnitude of electromagnetic field fluctuations are over 120 times larger, and over 800 times larger along specific angular directions, than they are in vacuum.

Prashant Shekhar, Sarang Pendharker, Douglas Vick, Marek Malac, and Zubin Jacob. 3/4/2019. Fast electrons interacting with a natural hyperbolic medium: bismuth telluride. Optics Express, 27, 5, Pp. 6970-6975.

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.

Prashant Shekhar, Sarang Pendharker, Harshad Sahasrabudhe, Douglas Vick, Marek Malac, Rajib Rahman, and Zubin Jacob. 12/20/2018. Extreme ultraviolet plasmonics and Cherenkov radiation in silicon. Optica, 5, 12, Pp. 1590-1596.

Silicon is widely used as the material of choice for semiconductor and insulator applications in nanoelectronics, micro-electro-mechanical systems, solar cells, and on-chip photonics. In stark contrast, in this paper, we explore silicon’s metallic properties and show that it can support propagating surface plasmons, collective charge oscillations, in the extreme ultraviolet (EUV) energy regime not possible with other plasmonic materials such as aluminum, silver, or gold. This is fundamentally different from conventional approaches, where doping semiconductors is considered necessary to observe plasmonic behavior. We experimentally map the photonic band structure of EUV surface and bulk plasmons in silicon using momentum-resolved electron energy loss spectroscopy. Our experimental observations are validated by macroscopic electrodynamic electron energy loss theory simulations as well as quantum density functional theory calculations. As an example of exploiting these EUV plasmons for applications, we propose a tunable and broadband thresholdless Cherenkov radiation source in the EUV using silicon plasmonic metamaterials. Our work can pave the way for the field of EUV plasmonics.

Cristian L. Cortes and Zubin Jacob. 1/25/2017. Super-Coulombic atom–atom interactions in hyperbolic media. Nature Communications, 8, 1, Pp. 1-8.

Dipole–dipole interactions, which govern phenomena such as cooperative Lamb shifts, superradiant decay rates, Van der Waals forces and resonance energy transfer rates, are conventionally limited to the Coulombic near-field. Here we reveal a class of real-photon and virtual-photon long-range quantum electrodynamic interactions that have a singularity in media with hyperbolic dispersion. The singularity in the dipole–dipole coupling, referred to as a super-Coulombic interaction, is a result of an effective interaction distance that goes to zero in the ideal limit irrespective of the physical distance. We investigate the entire landscape of atom–atom interactions in hyperbolic media confirming the giant long-range enhancement. We also propose multiple experimental platforms to verify our predicted effect with phonon–polaritonic hexagonal boron nitride, plasmonic super-lattices and hyperbolic meta-surfaces as well. Our work paves the way for the control of cold atoms above hyperbolic meta-surfaces and the study of many-body physics with hyperbolic media.

Yu Guo, Cristian L. Cortes, Sean Molesky, and Zubin Jacob. 9/24/2012. Broadband super-Planckian thermal emission from hyperbolic metamaterials. Applied Physics Letters, 101, 13, Pp. 131106.

We develop the fluctuational electrodynamics of metamaterials with hyperbolic dispersion and show the existence of broadband thermal emission beyond the black body limit in the near field. This arises due to the thermal excitation of unique bulk metamaterial modes, which do not occur in conventional media. We consider a practical realization of the hyperbolic metamaterial and estimate that the effect will be observable using the characteristic dispersion (topological transitions) of the metamaterial states. Our work paves the way for engineering the near-field thermal emission using metamaterials.

Yu Guo and Zubin Jacob. 6/17/2013. Thermal hyperbolic metamaterials. Optics Express, 21, 12, Pp. 15014-15019.

We explore the near-field radiative thermal energy transfer properties of hyperbolic metamaterials. The presence of unique electromagnetic states in a broad bandwidth leads to super-planckian thermal energy transfer between metamaterials separated by a nano-gap. We consider practical phonon-polaritonic metamaterials for thermal engineering in the mid-infrared range and show that the effect exists in spite of the losses, absorption and finite unit cell size. For thermophotovoltaic energy conversion applications requiring energy transfer in the near-infrared range we introduce high temperature hyperbolic metamaterials based on plasmonic materials with a high melting point. Our work paves the way for practical high temperature radiative thermal energy transfer applications of hyperbolic metamaterials.