Optical analogue of Dresselhaus spin–orbit interaction in photonic graphene


The concept of gauge fields plays a significant role in many areas of physics, from particle physics and cosmology to condensed-matter systems, where gauge potentials are a natural consequence of electromagnetic fields acting on charged particles and are of central importance in topological states of matter1. Here, we report on the experimental realization of a synthetic non-Abelian gauge field for photons2 in a honeycomb microcavity lattice3. We show that the effective magnetic field associated with transverse electric–transverse magnetic splitting has the symmetry of the Dresselhaus spin–orbit interaction around Dirac points in the dispersion, and can be regarded as an SU(2) gauge field4. The symmetry of the field is revealed in the optical spin Hall effect, where, under resonant excitation of the Dirac points, precession of the photon pseudospin around the field direction leads to the formation of two spin domains. Furthermore, we observe that the Dresselhaus-type field changes its sign in the same Dirac valley on switching from s to p bands, in good agreement with the tight-binding modelling. Our work demonstrating a non-Abelian gauge field for light on the microscale paves the way towards manipulation of photons via spin on a chip.

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Fig. 1: Photonic graphene sample and dispersion relations.
Fig. 2: Texture of the effective magnetic fields surrounding Γ, K and K′ points.
Fig. 3: Observation of the OSHE.
Fig. 4: Effective magnetic field texture and OSHE for p bands.

Data availability

The data that support the findings of this study are openly available from the University of Sheffield repository at https://doi.org/10.15131/shef.data.13060610.


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The work was supported by UK EPSRC grants nos. EP/N031776/1 and EP/R04385X/1 and by the Russian Science Foundation (project no. 19-72-20120). I.A.S. acknowledges support from the Icelandic Science Foundation, project ‘Hybrid Polaritonics’. A.V.N. acknowledges support from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement no. 846353.

Author information




C.E.W. and T.D. performed the experiments and analysed the data. E.C. grew the sample. B.R. performed post-growth fabrication. A.V.N. and I.A.S. provided theoretical input. C.E.W., A.V.N. and A.V.Y. performed theory calculations. C.E.W. and D.N.K. designed the experiment. C.E.W., A.V.N., I.A.S., M.S.S. and D.N.K. wrote the manuscript.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to C. E. Whittaker or D. N. Krizhanovskii.

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Peer review information Nature Photonics thanks Yi Yang and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Supplementary Information

Supplementary Figs. 1–9 and Sections 1–6.

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Whittaker, C.E., Dowling, T., Nalitov, A.V. et al. Optical analogue of Dresselhaus spin–orbit interaction in photonic graphene. Nat. Photonics (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41566-020-00729-z

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