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Spontaneous pulse formation in edgeless photonic crystal resonators


Nonlinearity in complex systems leads to pattern formation through fundamental interactions between components. With integrated photonics, precision control of nonlinearity explores novel patterns and propels applications. In particular, Kerr-nonlinear resonators support stationary states—including Turing patterns—composed of a few interfering waves, and localized solitons composed of waves across a broad spectrum. Although Turing patterns emerge from an unstable Kerr resonator with sufficiently intense excitation, Kerr solitons do not form spontaneously under constant excitation, making this useful state challenging to access. Here we explore an edgeless photonic crystal resonator (PhCR) that enables spontaneous soliton formation in place of Turing patterns. We design the PhCR nanopattern for single-azimuthal-mode engineering of a group-velocity-dispersion defect that balances Kerr-nonlinear frequency shifts in favour of the soliton state. Our experiments establish PhCR solitons as modelocked pulses through ultraprecise optical-frequency measurements. We show that nanophotonics expand the palette for nonlinear engineering, enabling new phenomena and light sources.

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Fig. 1: Mode structure for the Kerr resonator.
Fig. 2: Experimental evidence for spontaneous soliton formation.
Fig. 3: Optical spectra from PhCRs.
Fig. 4: Intensity and frequency noise measurements.

Data availability

The data that support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

Code availability

The simulation codes used in this study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.


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Funding was provided by the DARPA DODOS (all authors), and DRINQS and PIPES programmes (S.-P.Y., D.C.C., H.J., S.B.P.). We acknowledge the Boulder Microfabrication Facility, where the devices were fabricated. We thank T. Briles and J. Chiles for a careful reading of the manuscript. This work is a contribution of the US Government and is not subject to copyright. Mention of specific companies or trade names is for scientific communication only, and does not constitute an endorsement by NIST.

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Authors and Affiliations



S.-P.Y. contributed in the conception, design and fabrication, and performed the optical measurements and theoretical analysis. D.C.C. developed the simulation software and contributed to the theoretical understanding. H.J. initiated the development of the tantala material platform. G.T.M. provided discussions helpful to the conception. K.S. provided input on theory and fabrication development. S.B.P. contributed to the theoretical understanding and supervised the findings of this work. All authors provided feedback and helped shape the research, analysis and manuscript.

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Correspondence to Su-Peng Yu.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Peer review information Nature Photonics thanks Maxim Shcherbakov, Yun-Feng Xiao and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Supplementary Figs. 1–3 and discussion.

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Yu, SP., Cole, D.C., Jung, H. et al. Spontaneous pulse formation in edgeless photonic crystal resonators. Nat. Photonics 15, 461–467 (2021).

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