Many physical systems display quantized energy states. In optics, interacting resonant cavities show a transmission spectrum with split eigenfrequencies, similar to the split energy levels that result from interacting states in bonded multi-atomic—that is, molecular—systems. Here, we study the nonlinear dynamics of photonic diatomic molecules in linearly coupled microresonators and demonstrate that the system supports the formation of self-enforcing solitary waves when a laser is tuned across a split energy level. The output corresponds to a frequency comb (microcomb) whose characteristics in terms of power spectral distribution are unattainable in single-mode (atomic) systems. Photonic molecule microcombs are coherent, reproducible and reach high conversion efficiency and spectral flatness while operated with a laser power of a few milliwatts. These properties can favour the heterogeneous integration of microcombs with semiconductor laser technology and facilitate applications in optical communications, spectroscopy and astronomy.
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The raw data used in this work can be accessed at https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.4321076.
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We are grateful to A. M. Weiner for critically reading a first draft of the manuscript. The simulations for Fig. 2 were performed on resources at Chalmers Centre for Computational Science and Engineering (C3SE), provided by the Swedish National Infrastructure for Computing (SNIC). The devices demonstrated in this work were fabricated in part at Myfab Chalmers. We acknowledge funding support from the European Research Council (ERC, CoG GA 771410), the Swedish Research Council (2016-03960, 2016-06077, 2020-00453 and 2015-00535) and H2020 Marie Skłodowska Curie Actions (Innovative Training Network Microcomb, GA 812818).
The authors declare no competing interests.
Peer review information Nature Photonics thanks Lute Maleki and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.
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Helgason, Ó.B., Arteaga-Sierra, F.R., Ye, Z. et al. Dissipative solitons in photonic molecules. Nat. Photonics 15, 305–310 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41566-020-00757-9
Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand (2021)