By demonstrating exceptional control of an open optical system, an international research team has provided a path to experimentally measure and test exotic phenomena and gain insights into new physics with exquisite sensitivity.

Reported in Nature Communications, the Penn State, Michigan Technological University and Vienna University of Technology researchers created a stable surface of "exceptional" —notoriously finicky singularities that exhibit peculiar properties—and used it to facilitate and observe the perfect absorption of in a coherent, chiral system. When light enters the system—which operates as a surface full of exceptional points—in one direction, the light is completely absorbed. When entering from the opposite direction, relatively little light is absorbed.

"Our work points the way towards interesting new physics with exceptional points beyond their traditional habitat in sensing and lasing, where many more insights can be expected," said corresponding author Şahin Özdemir, associate professor of engineering science and mechanics at Penn State. Harnessing the unique properties of exceptional surfaces, Özdemir explained, could elucidate to a deeper understanding of what happens when physical processes occur exactly at an exceptional point, leading to potential applications for better sensors and novel ways of controlling the interaction of light with matter.

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