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The stopped-light laser: an optical black hole on the nanoscale

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Nicolas Bricknell.

Professor Ortwin Hess from Imperial College gives a talk on stopped-light lasers – see the abstract below for more details.

Admission is free to CUPS members, or £2 otherwise. As always, wine and cheese will be served after the talk.

(Abstract:) Ever since their first conception 50 years ago, lasers have evolved from little more than a scientific curiosity in the laboratory to take a place at centre stage in today’s society. Lasers do come in all kind of sizes and for an incredible variety of wavelengths – colours of the emitted light – but all have two vital components: a (laser) gain material and coherent feedback of the emitted light.

In normal lasers feedback is provided by placing the gain material between mirrors – i.e. inside a cavity. Now, could we accomplish such feedback by keeping photons that have just been emitted from an active laser medium, simply from propagating away? Light is normally the fastest ‘object’ in the universe, but researchers have, indeed, recently conceived ways of slowing it down considerably, even long enough to consider it as having been stopped altogether.

In the lecture, I will explain how these two fascinating aspects of light – lasing and stopped light – can be brought together in a tiny nanoplasmonic waveguide (with dimensions much smaller than the wavelength of the emitted light itself) to form the basis for a novel concept of a laser that no longer requires a cavity for feedback and can be realized on the nano-scale: A stopped-light laser.

I will deliberate on how this is possible by creating stopped-light singularities in the optical density of states that function in ways similar to an optical black hole and discus the complex spatio-temporal interaction between plasmons, light and nonlinear gain media on the nanoscale and at ultrafast time-scales. The lecture will provide an outlook, charting new opportunities of cavity-free lasers for integration on the nanoscale, ultrafast broadband signalling and in exotic environments such as synthetic tissue.

This talk is part of the Cambridge University Physics Society series.

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