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Cavity solitons as pixels in semiconductor microcavities


Cavity solitons are localized intensity peaks that can form in a homogeneous background of radiation. They are generated by shining laser pulses into optical cavities that contain a nonlinear medium driven by a coherent field (holding beam). The ability to switch cavity solitons on and off1,2 and to control their location and motion3 by applying laser pulses makes them interesting as potential ‘pixels’ for reconfigurable arrays or all-optical processing units. Theoretical work on cavity solitons2,3,4,5,6,7 has stimulated a variety of experiments in macroscopic cavities8,9,10 and in systems with optical feedback11,12,13. But for practical devices, it is desirable to generate cavity solitons in semiconductor structures, which would allow fast response and miniaturization. The existence of cavity solitons in semiconductor microcavities has been predicted theoretically14,15,16,17, and precursors of cavity solitons have been observed, but clear experimental realization has been hindered by boundary-dependence of the resulting optical patterns18,19—cavity solitons should be self-confined. Here we demonstrate the generation of cavity solitons in vertical cavity semiconductor microresonators that are electrically pumped above transparency but slightly below lasing threshold20. We show that the generated optical spots can be written, erased and manipulated as objects independent of each other and of the boundary. Numerical simulations allow for a clearer interpretation of experimental results.

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Figure 1: Schematic experimental set-up.
Figure 2: Average intensity distribution and spatially resolved power spectra (along the lines labelled x in a and c) for the free running laser (FRL) and for the driven VCSEL.
Figure 3: Numerical simulation and theoretical interpretation of the spatial field profile.
Figure 4: Experimental demonstration of independent writing and erasing of CSs.

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We thank F. Capasso, P. Coullet, W. J. Firth and R. Kuszelewicz for discussions. This work was performed in the framework of the ESPRIT project PIANOS and the PRIN project ‘Formazione e controllo di solitoni di cavità in microrisonatori a semiconduttore’ of the Italian Ministry of University and Research, the contract ACI Photonique of the Ministere de l'Education et la Recherche de France, and the Project TIC99-0645-C05-02 of the Ministerio de Educación y Cultura, Spain.

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Correspondence to Luigi A. Lugiato.

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Barland, S., Tredicce, J., Brambilla, M. et al. Cavity solitons as pixels in semiconductor microcavities. Nature 419, 699–702 (2002).

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