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Mimicking celestial mechanics in metamaterials


Einstein’s general theory of relativity establishes equality between matter–energy density and the curvature of spacetime. As a result, light and matter follow natural paths in the inherent spacetime and may experience bending and trapping in a specific region of space. So far, the interaction of light and matter with curved spacetime has been predominantly studied theoretically and through astronomical observations. Here, we propose to link the newly emerged field of artificial optical materials to that of celestial mechanics, thus opening the way to investigate light phenomena reminiscent of orbital motion, strange attractors and chaos, in a controlled laboratory environment. The optical–mechanical analogy enables direct studies of critical light/matter behaviour around massive celestial bodies and, on the other hand, points towards the design of novel optical cavities and photon traps for application in microscopic devices and lasers systems.

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Figure 1: Optical attractors and PBHs.
Figure 2: Mimicking the PBH electromagnetic phenomenon in the laboratory.
Figure 3: CIPTs based on air–GaInAsP composite media.

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This work has been supported by US Army Research Office ARO MURI program 50432–PH-MUR, the NSF Nano-scale Science and Engineering Center (NSEC) under Grant No. CMMI-0751621 and Louisiana Board of Regents under contract number LEQSF (2007-12)-ENH-PKSFI-PRS-01. We would also like to thank G. Bartal and D. Pile for important discussions and assistance.

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D.A.G. conceived and implemented the theory and numerical simulations, designed the DOM and CIPT media and prepared the manuscript; S.Z. and X.Z. contributed extensively in the data analyses and conceptualization, and edited the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Xiang Zhang.

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Genov, D., Zhang, S. & Zhang, X. Mimicking celestial mechanics in metamaterials. Nature Phys 5, 687–692 (2009).

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