Enhanced energy storage in chaotic optical resonators

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Chaos is a phenomenon that occurs in many aspects of contemporary science. In classical dynamics, chaos is defined as a hypersensitivity to initial conditions. The presence of chaos is often unwanted, as it introduces unpredictability, which makes it difficult to predict or explain experimental results. Conversely, we demonstrate here how chaos can be used to enhance the ability of an optical resonator to store energy. We combine analytic theory with ab initio simulations and experiments in photonic-crystal resonators to show that a chaotic resonator can store six times more energy than its classical counterpart of the same volume. We explain the observed increase by considering the equipartition of energy among all degrees of freedom of the chaotic resonator (that is, the cavity modes) and discover a convergence of their lifetimes towards a single value. A compelling illustration of the theory is provided by enhanced absorption in deformed polystyrene microspheres.

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Figure 1: Ab initio results of chaotic energy storage.
Figure 2: Chaos-induced modal collapse.
Figure 3: Results for a variable-bandwidth source.
Figure 4: Summary of two-dimensional experimental results.
Figure 5: Energy trapping in two-dimensional resonators.
Figure 6: Summary of the three-dimensional experimental results with deformed microspheres.


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The resources of the Supercomputing Laboratory at King Abdullah University of Science & Technology (KAUST) were used for computer time. A.F. acknowledges funding from KAUST (award no. CRG-1-2012-FRA-005). A.D.F. is supported by an EPSRC Career Acceleration Fellowship (EP/ I004602/1).

Author information

A.F. initiated the work and developed the theory behind chaotic energy harvesting. C.L., D.M. and A.F. carried out numerical FDTD simulations and performed data analysis. A.D.F. and T.F.K. realized the photonic-crystal samples and performed the experiments on the two-dimensional geometries. B.S.O., Y.K. and A.F. performed experiments on three-dimensional deformed microspheres. All authors contributed to manuscript preparation.

Correspondence to A. Fratalocchi.

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Liu, C., Di Falco, A., Molinari, D. et al. Enhanced energy storage in chaotic optical resonators. Nature Photon 7, 473–478 (2013) doi:10.1038/nphoton.2013.108

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