Article abstract

Nature Physics 5, 687 - 692 (2009)
Published online: 20 July 2009 | doi:10.1038/nphys1338

Subject Category: Optical physics

Mimicking celestial mechanics in metamaterials

Dentcho A. Genov1,2, Shuang Zhang1 & Xiang Zhang1,3

Einstein's general theory of relativity establishes equality between matter–energy density and the curvature of spacetime. As a result, light and matter follow natural paths in the inherent spacetime and may experience bending and trapping in a specific region of space. So far, the interaction of light and matter with curved spacetime has been predominantly studied theoretically and through astronomical observations. Here, we propose to link the newly emerged field of artificial optical materials to that of celestial mechanics, thus opening the way to investigate light phenomena reminiscent of orbital motion, strange attractors and chaos, in a controlled laboratory environment. The optical–mechanical analogy enables direct studies of critical light/matter behaviour around massive celestial bodies and, on the other hand, points towards the design of novel optical cavities and photon traps for application in microscopic devices and lasers systems.

  1. NSF Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center, University of California, Berkeley, California 94720, USA
  2. College of Engineering and Science, Louisiana Tech University, Ruston, Louisiana 71272, USA
  3. Material Sciences Division, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, California 94720, USA

Correspondence to: Xiang Zhang1,3 e-mail:


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