Nontechnical description: The goal of this CAREER project is to investigate and develop for the first time a novel type of laser that exploits novel confinement method for light inspired by early theoretical works in quantum mechanics. The method can "plug leaky light cavities". Instead of limiting cavity losses the usual way by reducing the size and number of passages through which light can escape, the cavity's design produces destructive interferences that, when light is allowed to escape, the multiple waves that do so through different passages end up canceling each other. Discovering new principles that enable novel optical properties is crucial for the progress of photonics, the science of light. Applications of these systems include novel light sources for communication, sensing and imaging. This fundamental and experimental work will study the creation of those sources using engineered and nanostructured materials. The novel sources satisfy many requirements of photonics devices including small footprint, low power consumption and enhanced light-matter interaction. The project is integrated with rigorous educational and outreach activities, including training specialists in nanophotonics, classroom and laboratory training for students, outreach activities (annual winter workshop) towards underrepresented communities from high-school to graduate levels with emphasis on veterans and African-Americans.
Photonics sources and lasers have fundamental applications in science and technology. The discovery and implementation of new physical principle allowing unprecedented optical properties is paramount to the progress of photonic systems. The proposed research will investigate the physics of Bound State in the Continuum (BIC), initially believed to be a mathematical curiosity in quantum mechanics. BIC devices, especially sources, can be designed and implemented by engineering the decay channels of light in photonics systems using symmetry considerations. BIC offer a new paradigm in building unprecedented photonic cavities, sources and systems with unique optical responses. Applications of these systems include novel light sources with intriguing polarization singularities, surface lasers, sensing, and chip scale communications. BIC lasers satisfy many requirements for optical sources including scalability and low-threshold. The project objectives will be accomplished by combining expertise in design, fabrication, and characterization of unconventional cavities. The research will investigate BIC lasers and their new physics. The multidisciplinary project bridges the fields of laser physics, nanophotonics, nanofabrication and characterization. BIC lasers open new avenues in the study of light-matter interaction as they are intrinsically connected to topological charges and represent natural vector beam sources which are highly sought after in the fields of optical trapping, biological sensing, and quantum information.