New Publication: Tunable pseudo-magnetic fields for polaritons in strained metasurfaces

Congratulations to final year PhD student Charlie-Ray Mann whose theory paper, entitled ‘Tunable pseudo-magnetic fields for polaritons in strained metasurfaces’, has been published in the prestigious journal Nature Photonics.

The work has also been featured on the University of Exeter’s news website.

Charlie-Ray Mann, the lead scientist and author of the study, explains:

Charlie-Ray Mann- lead scientist and author of the paper published in Nature Photonics

The interaction between charged particles and magnetic fields gives rise to some of the most fascinating phenomena in physics, ranging from the beautiful Aurora Borealis to the famous quantum-Hall effect. Unfortunately, because photons do not have an electric charge they are inert to real magnetic fields as they do not experience a Lorentz force.

Taking inspiration from graphene physics, we have shown that you can generate `artificial’ magnetic fields for light by distorting honeycomb metasurfaces in a specific way. These distortions generate a ‘synthetic’ Lorentz force which can deflect the surface polaritons into effective cyclotron orbits, and for larger distortions one can also observe Landau quantization of the polaritons — phenomena once thought to be exclusive to charged particles.

However, the main drawback with this approach is that to change the artificial magnetic field one is usually required to modify the distortion in the lattice. This is extremely challenging, if not impossible to do with photonic structures, hindering our ability to tune the artificial magnetic field after the structure has been fabricated — that is, the artificial magnetic fields are usually fixed by design.

In this theoretical work we have proposed an alternative mechanism to tune the artificial magnetic fields, which requires no change to the metasurface distortion. By exploiting the hybrid light-matter character of the surface polaritons, we show that one can tune the artificial magnetic field by modifying the real electromagnetic environment surrounding the metasurface.

Specifically, we’ve shown that by embedding the metasurface inside a photonic cavity or waveguide, one can tune the artificial magnetic field by modifying a single external parameter: the cavity width. In fact, we’ve even demonstrated that you can switch off the artificial magnetic entirely at a critical cavity width, without having to remove the distortion in the metasurface — something that is impossible to do in graphene or any system that emulates graphene.

Using this new mechanism you can bend the trajectory of the polaritons using a tunable Lorentz-like force that can be switched on/off, and you can drastically reconfigure the polariton Landau level spectrum by simply changing the cavity width.

Earlier this year, Charlie-Ray Mann was awarded a £5,000 prize from the Rank Prize Funds 2020.

Leave a Reply