Observation of bright polariton solitons in a semiconductor microcavity


Microcavity polaritons are composite half-light half-matter quasiparticles, which have recently been demonstrated to exhibit rich physical properties, such as non-equilibrium condensation, parametric scattering and superfluidity. At the same time, polaritons have important advantages over photons for information processing, because their excitonic component leads to weaker diffraction and stronger interparticle interactions, implying, respectively, tighter localization and lower powers for nonlinear functionality. Here, we present the first experimental observations of bright polariton solitons in a strongly coupled semiconductor microcavity. The polariton solitons are shown to be micrometre-scale localized non-diffracting wave packets with a corresponding broad spectrum in momentum space. Unlike the solitons known in Bose condensed atomic gases, they are non-equilibrium and rely on a balance between losses and external pumping. Microcavity polariton solitons are excited on picosecond timescales, and thus have further benefits for information processing over light-only solitons in semiconductor cavity lasers, which have nanosecond response times.

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Figure 1: Experimental configuration and observation of soliton propagation.
Figure 4: Numerical modelling.
Figure 2: Soliton stability.
Figure 3: Two-dimensional soliton images.
Figure 5: Soliton spectra.

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  • 16 November 2011

    The title of this Article originally published online was incorrect. This error has been corrected for all versions of the Article.


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The Sheffield group thanks EPSRC (EP/G001642, EP/H023259, EP/E051448), the FP7 ITN Clermont 4 and the Royal Society for support of this work, and A. Amo for a helpful discussion.

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All authors prepared the manuscript and analysed the experimental and numerical data. M.S. and D.N.K. conducted the experimental measurements. A.V.G., R.H. and D.V.S. conducted the theoretical and numerical work. D.V.S. proposed the concept. K.B. and R.H. fabricated the microcavity.

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Correspondence to D. N. Krizhanovskii or D. V. Skryabin.

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Sich, M., Krizhanovskii, D., Skolnick, M. et al. Observation of bright polariton solitons in a semiconductor microcavity. Nature Photon 6, 50–55 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1038/nphoton.2011.267

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