Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

  • Letter
  • Published:

Lasing action from photonic bound states in continuum


In 1929, only three years after the advent of quantum mechanics, von Neumann and Wigner showed that Schrödinger’s equation can have bound states above the continuum threshold1. These peculiar states, called bound states in the continuum (BICs), manifest themselves as resonances that do not decay. For several decades afterwards the idea lay dormant, regarded primarily as a mathematical curiosity. In 1977, Herrick and Stillinger revived interest in BICs when they suggested that BICs could be observed in semiconductor superlattices2,3. BICs arise naturally from Feshbach’s quantum mechanical theory of resonances, as explained by Friedrich and Wintgen, and are thus more physical than initially realized4. Recently, it was realized that BICs are intrinsically a wave phenomenon and are thus not restricted to the realm of quantum mechanics. They have since been shown to occur in many different fields of wave physics including acoustics, microwaves and nanophotonics5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16. However, experimental observations of BICs have been limited to passive systems and the realization of BIC lasers has remained elusive. Here we report, at room temperature, lasing action from an optically pumped BIC cavity. Our results show that the lasing wavelength of the fabricated BIC cavities, each made of an array of cylindrical nanoresonators suspended in air, scales with the radii of the nanoresonators according to the theoretical prediction for the BIC mode. Moreover, lasing action from the designed BIC cavity persists even after scaling down the array to as few as 8-by-8 nanoresonators. BIC lasers open up new avenues in the study of light–matter interaction because they are intrinsically connected to topological charges17 and represent natural vector beam sources (that is, there are several possible beam shapes)18, which are highly sought after in the fields of optical trapping, biological sensing and quantum information.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Access options

Buy this article

Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout

Figure 1: BIC laser.
Figure 2: Design and complex dispersion relation of the BIC cavity.
Figure 3: Experimental characterization of the BIC laser.
Figure 4: Scaling of the BIC lasers.

Similar content being viewed by others


  1. von Neumann, J. & Wigner, E. On some peculiar discrete eigenvalues. Phys. Z. 30, 467 (1929)

    Google Scholar 

  2. Herrick, D. R. Construction of bound states in the continuum for epitaxial heterostructure superlattices. Physica B 85, 44–50 (1976)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Stillinger, F. H. Potentials supporting positive-energy eigenstates and their application to semiconductor heterostructures. Physica B 85, 270–276 (1976)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Friedrich, H. & Wintgen, D. Interfering resonances and bound states in the continuum. Phys. Rev. A 32, 3231–3242 (1985)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  5. Hsu, C. W., Zhen, B., Stone, A. D., Joannopoulos, J. D. & Soljacˇic´, M. Bound states in the continuum. Nat. Rev. Mater. 1, 16048 (2016)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  6. Linton, C. M . & McIver, P . Embedded trapped modes in water waves and acoustics. Wave Motion 45, 16–29 (2007)

    Article  MathSciNet  Google Scholar 

  7. Lepetit, T. & Kanté, B. Controlling multipolar radiation with symmetries for electromagnetic bound states in the continuum. Phys. Rev. B 90, 241103(R) (2014)

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  8. Marinica, D. C. et al. Bound states in the continuum in photonics. Phys. Rev. Lett. 100, 183902 (2008)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  9. Bulgakov, E. N. & Sadreev, A. F. Bound states in the continuum in photonic waveguides inspired by defects. Phys. Rev. B 78, 075105 (2008)

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  10. Dreisow, F. et al. Adiabatic transfer of light via a continuum in optical waveguides. Opt. Lett. 34, 2405–2407 (2009)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  11. Plotnik, Y. et al. Experimental observation of optical bound states in the continuum. Phys. Rev. Lett. 107, 183901 (2011)

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  12. Weimann, S. et al. Compact surface Fano states embedded in the continuum of waveguide arrays. Phys. Rev. Lett. 111, 240403 (2013)

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  13. Hsu, C. W. et al. Observation of trapped light within the radiation continuum. Nature 499, 188–191 (2013)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  14. Monticone, F. & Alù, A. Embedded photonic eigenvalues in 3D nanostructures. Phys. Rev. Lett. 112, 213903 (2014)

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  15. Molina, M. I., Miroshnichenko, A. E. & Kivshar, Y. S . Surface bound states in the continuum. Phys. Rev. Lett. 108, 070401 (2012)

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  16. Zhang, M. & Zhang, X. Ultrasensitive optical absorption in graphene based on bound states in the continuum. Sci. Rep. 5, 8266 (2015)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  17. Zhen, B., Hsu, C. W., Lu, L., Stone, A. D . & Soljacˇic´, M . Topological nature of optical bound states in the continuum. Phys. Rev. Lett. 113, 257401 (2014)

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  18. Miyai, E. et al. Photonics: Lasers producing tailored beams. Nature 441, 946 (2006)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  19. Sadreev, A. F., Bulgakov, E. N. & Rotter, I. Bound states in the continuum in open quantum billiards with a variable shape. Phys. Rev. B 73, 235342 (2006)

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  20. Wiersig, J. Formation of long-lived, scarlike modes near avoided resonance crossings in optical microcavities. Phys. Rev. Lett. 97, 253901 (2006)

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  21. Persson, E., Rotter, I., Stöckmann, H.-J . & Barth, M . Observation of resonance trapping in an open microwave cavity. Phys. Rev. Lett. 85, 2478–2481 (2000)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  22. Sakoda, K. Optical Properties of Photonic Crystals Chs 3, 8 (Springer, 2005)

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  23. Fan, S. & Joannopoulos, J. D. Analysis of guided resonances in photonic crystal slabs. Phys. Rev. B 65, 235112 (2002)

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  24. Yang, Y., Peng, C., Liang, Y., Li, Z . & Noda, S. Analytical perspective for bound states in the continuum in photonic crystal slabs. Phys. Rev. Lett. 113, 037401 (2014)

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  25. Kogelnik, H. & Shank, C. V. Stimulated emission in a periodic structure. Appl. Phys. Lett. 18, 152–154 (1971)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  26. Meier, M. et al. Laser action from two-dimensional distributed feedback in photonic crystals. Appl. Phys. Lett. 74, 7–9 (1999)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  27. Imada, M. et al. Coherent two-dimensional lasing action in surface-emitting laser with triangular lattice photonic crystal structure. Appl. Phys. Lett. 75, 316–318 (1999)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  28. Xu, T., Yang, S., Nair, S. V . & Ruda, H. E . Confined modes in finite-size photonic crystals. Phys. Rev. B 72, 045126 (2005)

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  29. Koenderink, A. F., Alù, A. & Polman, A . Nanophotonics: Shrinking light-based technologies. Science 348, 516–521 (2015)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

Download references


This research was supported by the National Science Foundation Career Award (ECCS-1554021), the Office of Naval Research Multi-University Research Initiative (N00014-13-1-0678), and the startup funds provided to B.K. by the University of California San Diego. The work was performed in part at the San Diego Nanotechnology Infrastructure, a member of the National Nanotechnology Coordinated Infrastructure, which is supported by the National Science Foundation (ECCS-1542148). We thank M. Montero for technical assistance regarding the fabrication.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations



B.K. conceived the project. A.K. and Q.G. fabricated the samples and performed the measurements. T.L. and B.B. performed the theoretical calculations. B.K., T.L., and Y.F. guided the theoretical and experimental investigations. All authors contributed to discussions and manuscript writing.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Boubacar Kanté.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

This file contains Supplementary Text and Data, Supplementary Figures 1-13 and Supplementary References. (PDF 1469 kb)

PowerPoint slides

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Kodigala, A., Lepetit, T., Gu, Q. et al. Lasing action from photonic bound states in continuum. Nature 541, 196–199 (2017).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

This article is cited by


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing