S. Jahani, L.-P. Yang, A. B. Tepole, J. C. Bardin, H. X. Tang, and Z. Jacob, “Probabilistic vortex crossing criterion for superconducting nanowire single-photon detectors”, Journal of Applied Physics, vol. 127, no. 14, p. 143101, 2020.

Superconducting nanowire single-photon detectors have emerged as a promising technology for quantum metrology from the mid-infrared to ultraviolet frequencies. Despite recent experimental successes, a predictive model to describe the detection event in these detectors is needed to optimize the detection metrics. Here, we propose a probabilistic criterion for single-photon detection based on single-vortex (flux quanta) crossing the width of the nanowire. Our model makes a connection between the dark counts and photon counts near the detection threshold. The finite-difference calculations demonstrate that a change in the bias current distribution as a result of the photon absorption significantly increases the probability of single-vortex crossing even if the vortex potential barrier has not vanished completely. We estimate the instrument response function and show that the timing uncertainty of this vortex tunneling process corresponds to a fundamental limit in timing jitter of the click event. We demonstrate a trade-space between this intrinsic (quantum) timing jitter, quantum efficiency, and dark count rate in TaN, WSi, and NbN superconducting nanowires at different experimental conditions. Our detection model can also explain the experimental observation of exponential decrease in the quantum efficiency of SNSPDs at lower energies. This leads to a pulse-width dependency in the quantum efficiency, and it can be further used as an experimental test to compare across different detection models.

L.-P. Yang, C. Khandekar, T. Li, and Z. Jacob, “Single photon pulse induced transient entanglement force”, New Journal of Physics, vol. 22, no. 2, p. 023037, 2020.

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.

C. Khandekar, L.-P. Yang, A. W. Rodriguez, and Z. Jacob, “Quantum nonlinear mixing of thermal photons to surpass the blackbody limit”, Opt. Express, vol. 28, no. 2, pp. 2045–2059, 2020.

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.

P. Sengupta, C. Khandekar, T. Van Mechelen, R. Rahman, and Z. Jacob, “Electron g-factor engineering for nonreciprocal spin photonics”, Physical Review B, vol. 101, no. 3, p. 035412, 2020.

We study the interplay of electron and photon spin in nonreciprocal materials. Traditionally, the primary mechanism to design nonreciprocal photonic devices has been magnetic fields in conjunction with magnetic oxides, such as iron garnets. In this work, we present an alternative paradigm that allows tunability and reconfigurability of the nonreciprocity through spintronic approaches. The proposed design uses the high spinorbit coupling (SOC) of a narrow-band-gap semiconductor (InSb) with ferromagnetic dopants. A combination of the intrinsic SOC and a gate-applied electric field gives rise to a strong external Rashba spin-orbit coupling (RSOC) in a magnetically doped InSb film. The RSOC which is gate alterable is shown to adjust the magnetic permeability tensor via the electron g factor of the medium. We use electronic band structure calculations (k · p theory) to show that the gate-adjustable RSOC manifest itself in the nonreciprocal coefficient of photon fields via shifts in the Kerr and Faraday rotations. In addition, we show that photon spin properties of dipolar emitters placed in the vicinity of a nonreciprocal electromagnetic environment are distinct from reciprocal counterparts. The Purcell factor (Fp) of a spin-polarized emitter (right-handed circular dipole) is significantly enhanced due to a larger g factor while a left-handed dipole remains essentially unaffected. Our search for novel nonreciprocal material platforms can lead to electron-spin-controlled reconfigurable photonic devices.

X. Wang, R. Starko-Bowes, C. Khandekar, and Z. Jacob, “High-temperature thermal photonics”, Annual Review of Heat Transfer, vol. 23, pp. 355–395, 2020.

Controlling and detecting thermal radiation is of vital importance for varied applications ranging from energy conversion systems and nanoscale information processing devices to infrared imaging, spectroscopy, and sensing. We review the field of high-temperature thermal photonics, which aims to control the spectrum, polarization, tunability, switchability, and directionality of heat radiation from engineered materials in extreme environments. We summarize the candidate materials that are being pursued by the community that have simultaneous polaritonic/plasmonic properties as well as high-temperature stability. We also provide a detailed discussion of common photonic platforms, including metagratings, photonic crystals, and metamaterials used for thermal emission engineering. We review broad applications, including thermophotovoltaics, high-temperature radiative cooling, thermal radiation sources, and noisy nanoscale thermal devices. By providing an overview of the recent achievements in this field, we hope this review can accelerate progress to overcome major outstanding problems in modern thermal engineering.


A. K. Boddeti, A. Alabassi, V. Aggarwal, and Z. Jacob, “Spectral domain inverse design for accelerating nanocomposite metamaterials discovery”, Optical Materials Express, vol. 9, no. 12, pp. 4765–4771, 2019.

Inverse design techniques in the context of nanophotonics have helped in discovery of compact and counter-intuitive structures/shapes. We introduce the concept of spectral domain inverse design to search through the optical trade-space (dispersive permittivity) of nanocomposite metamaterials. We develop a hybrid optimization technique that combines genetic algorithms and gradient descent methods. We utilize this technique to inverse design an ultra-thin thermophotovoltaic emitter coating material. Our work can lead to an efficient approach to search for new multi-functional optical/thermal metamaterials with desired complex permittivity.

C. Khandekar and Z. Jacob, “Thermal spin photonics in the near-field of nonreciprocal media”, New Journal of Physics, vol. 21, 2019.

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.

F. Khosravi, T. Van Mechelen, and Z. Jacob, “Dirac wire: Fermionic waveguides with longitudinal spin”, Physical Review B, vol. 100, no. 15, 2019.

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 which 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.

See also: Photonics, Spin
R. Starko-Bowes et al., “High-Temperature Polaritons in Ceramic Nanotube Antennas”, Nano letters, vol. 19, no. 12, pp. 8565–8571, 2019.

High-temperature thermal photonics presents unique challenges for engineers as the database of materials that can withstand extreme environments are limited. In particular, ceramics with high temperature stability that can support coupled light-matter excitations, that is, polaritons, open new avenues for engineering radiative heat transfer. Hexagonal boron nitride (hBN) is an emerging ceramic 2D material that possesses low-loss polaritons in two spectrally distinct mid-infrared frequency bands. The hyperbolic nature of these frequency bands leads to a large local density of states (LDOS). In 2D form, these polaritonic states are dark modes, bound to the material. In cylindrical form, boron nitride nanotubes (BNNTs) create subwavelength particles capable of coupling these dark modes to radiative ones. In this study, we leverage the high-frequency optical phonons present in BNNTs to create strong mid-IR thermal antenna emitters at high temperatures (938 K). Through direct measurement of thermal emission of a disordered system of BNNTs, we confirm their radiative polaritonic modes and show that the antenna behavior can be observed even in a disordered system. These are among the highest-frequency optical phonon polaritons that exist and could be used as high-temperature mid-IR thermal nanoantenna sources.

C. Khandekar and Z. Jacob, “Circularly Polarized Thermal Radiation From Nonequilibrium Coupled Antennas”, Physical Review Applied, vol. 12, no. 1, 2019.

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.

See also: Thermal