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All-optical control of the quantum flow of a polariton condensate


Although photons in vacuum are massless particles that do not appreciably interact with each other, significant interactions appear in suitable nonlinear media, leading to hydrodynamic behaviours typical of quantum fluids1,2,3,4,5,6. Here, we show the generation and manipulation of vortex–antivortex pairs in a coherent gas of strongly dressed photons (polaritons) flowing against an artificial potential barrier created and controlled by a light beam in a semiconductor microcavity. The optical control of the polariton flow allows us to reveal new quantum hydrodynamical phenomenologies such as the formation of vortex pairs upstream from the optical barrier, a case of ultrashort time excitation of the quantum flow, and the generation of vortices with counterflow trajectories. Additionally, we demonstrate how to permanently trap and store quantum vortices hydrodynamically generated in the wake of a defect. These observations are supported by time-dependent simulations based on the non-equilibrium Gross–Pitaevskii equation7.

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Figure 1: Schematic of the experiment.
Figure 2: Effect of the optical barrier on the nucleation of vortex–antivortex pairs.
Figure 3: Time-integrated real space emission patterns and corresponding vortex trajectories (obtained from successive time shots) for different parameters of the c.w. laser, injection density and barrier shape.
Figure 4: Vortex–antivortex pair storage in a triangular trap.


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This work was partially supported by the Agence Nationale pour la Recherche (GEMINI 07NANO 07043), the IFRAF (Institut Francilien pour les atomes froids), project MIUR FIRB ItalNanoNet and the POLATOM ESF Research Networking Program. I.C. acknowledges financial support from the ERC through the QGBE grant. P.S.S.G. acknowledges support from CNPq, Brazil. A.B. and C.C. are members of the Institut Universitaire de France (IUF). The authors are grateful to G. Martiradonna for helping with the realization of the laser mask and to P. Cazzato for technical support.

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All authors contributed to the implementation and modelling of the experiment, interpretation of the results and writing of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to D. Sanvitto.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Sanvitto, D., Pigeon, S., Amo, A. et al. All-optical control of the quantum flow of a polariton condensate. Nature Photon 5, 610–614 (2011).

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