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Transverse localization of transmission eigenchannels

Nature Photonicsvolume 13pages352358 (2019) | Download Citation


Transmission eigenchannels are building blocks of coherent wave transport in diffusive media, and selective excitation of individual eigenchannels can lead to diverse transport behaviour. An essential yet poorly understood property is the transverse spatial profile of each eigenchannel, which is relevant for the associated energy density and critical for coupling light into and out of it. Here, we discover that the transmission eigenchannels of a disordered slab possess exponentially localized incident and outgoing profiles, even in the diffusive regime far from Anderson localization. Such transverse localization arises from a combination of reciprocity, local coupling of spatial modes and non-local correlations of scattered waves. Experimentally, we observe signatures of such localization even with finite illumination area. The transverse localization of high-transmission channels enhances optical energy densities inside turbid media, which will be important for light–matter interactions and imaging applications.

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We thank A. Mosk, A. Genack, B. Shapiro, F. Scheffold, S. Skipetrov, S. Bittner, S. Rotter and T. Kottos for stimulating discussions and useful feedback. We acknowledge financial support by the Office of Naval Research (ONR) under grant no. MURI N00014-13-0649 and by the US–Israel Binational Science Foundation (BSF) under grant no. 2015509, as well as computational resources provided by the Yale High Performance Computing Cluster (Yale HPC).

Author information


  1. Department of Applied Physics, Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA

    • Hasan Yılmaz
    • , Chia Wei Hsu
    •  & Hui Cao
  2. Department of Physics, Missouri University of Science & Technology, Rolla, MO, USA

    • Alexey Yamilov


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H.Y. performed the experiments and analysed the data. C.W.H. performed the numerical simulations and fabricated the samples. H.Y. analysed the numerical data. C.W.H. helped with experimental data acquisition and contributed to numerical data analysis. H.C. supervised the project. All authors contributed to the interpretation of the results. H.Y. and C.W.H. prepared the manuscript, H.C. edited it and A.Y. provided feedback.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Hui Cao.

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