Cherenkov radiation provides a valuable way to identify high-energy particles in a wide momentum range, through the relation between the particle velocity and the Cherenkov angle. However, since the Cherenkov angle depends only on the material’s permittivity, the material unavoidably sets a fundamental limit to the momentum coverage and sensitivity of Cherenkov detectors. For example, ring-imaging Cherenkov detectors must employ materials transparent to the frequency of interest as well as possessing permittivities close to unity to identify particles in the multi-gigaelectronvolt range, and thus are often limited to large gas chambers. It would be extremely important, albeit challenging, to lift this fundamental limit and control Cherenkov angles at will. Here we propose a new mechanism that uses the constructive interference of resonance transition radiation from photonic crystals to generate both forward and backward effective Cherenkov radiation. This mechanism can control the radiation angles in a flexible way with high sensitivity to any desired range of velocities. Photonic crystals thus overcome the material limit for Cherenkov detectors, enabling the use of transparent materials with arbitrary values of permittivity, and provide a promising versatile platform well suited for identification of particles at high energy with enhanced sensitivity.

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This work was sponsored by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (grants no. 61625502, 61574127 and 61601408), the ZJNSF (LY17F010008), the Top-Notch Young Talents Program of China, the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities, the Innovation Joint Research Center for Cyber-Physical-Society System, Nanyang Technological University for NAP Start-Up Grant, the Singapore Ministry of Education (grants no. MOE2015-T2-1-070 and MOE2016-T3-1-006, and Tier 1 RG174/16 (S)) and the US Army Research Laboratory and the US Army Research Office through the Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies (contract no. W911NF-18-2-0048 and W911NF-13-D-0001). I. Kaminer is an Azrieli Fellow, supported by the Azrieli Foundation, and was partially supported by the Seventh Framework Programme of the European Research Council (FP7-Marie Curie IOF) under grant no. 328853-MC-BSiCS.

Author information


  1. State Key Laboratory of Modern Optical Instrumentation, The Electromagnetics Academy at Zhejiang University, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China

    • Xiao Lin
    •  & Hongsheng Chen
  2. Division of Physics and Applied Physics, School of Physical and Mathematical Sciences, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, Singapore

    • Xiao Lin
    •  & Baile Zhang
  3. Particle Physics Department, Rutherford-Appleton Laboratory (STFC-UKRI), Didcot, UK

    • Sajan Easo
  4. Department of Physics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, USA

    • Yichen Shen
    • , John D. Joannopoulos
    •  & Marin Soljačić
  5. Centre for Disruptive Photonic Technologies, NTU, Singapore, Singapore

    • Baile Zhang
  6. Department of Electrical Engineering, Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa, Israel

    • Ido Kaminer


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X.L., I.K. and S.E. initiated the idea; X.L. performed the calculation; X.L., S.E., Y.S., H.C., B.Z., J.D.J., M.S. and I.K. analysed data, interpreted detailed results and contributed extensively to the writing of the manuscript; I.K., S.E., H.C., B.Z., J.D.J. and M.S. supervised the project.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Sajan Easo.

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