Theses Doctoral

Symmetry Breaking and Harmonic Generation in Metasurfaces and 2-Dimensional Materials

Ginsberg, Jared Scott

A strong argument can be made that physics is, at its core, the study of symmetries. Nonlinear optics is certainly no exception, with an enormous number of distinct processes each depending in its own way on the underlying symmetries of the physical system, the light, or of nature itself. Restricting ourselves to optical harmonic generation, we will explore three unique physical systems as well as three symmetries. In each case, the controlled breaking of that symmetry will lead to optical enhancements, novel nonlinearities, or deep physical insights.

Beginning with silicon metasurfaces, we will explore the effects of even and odd spatial symmetries in optical systems. The periodic breaking of this symmetry will lead us to the highly engineerable physics of bound states in the continuum. By studying the harmonic emission from an atomic gas in the volume surrounding the metasurface, we will come to understand that significant nonlinear optical enhancements can be engineered with any linewidth and at any wavelength.

In the context of the two-dimensional material hexagonal boron nitride, we will investigate and break crystal inversion symmetries. Using an intense laser tuned to the phonon resonance of hexagonal boron nitride, large amplitude anharmonic ionic motions will provide us a powerful degree of control over the internal symmetries of the system at an atomic level. Breaking this symmetry, we measure short-lived even-order nonlinearities that would otherwise be forbidden in equilibrium. Our observations for second- and third- harmonic generation are confirmed by time-dependent density functional theory. Those simulations further extend the understanding of this symmetry-breaking effect to even higher order processes.

Lastly, single-crystal graphene and graphite provide an ideal platform through which to explore time-reversal symmetry. Chiral photons, or optical beams with ellipticity and handedness, are well known to break time-reversal symmetry. While applying high-power, chiral light to graphene, the breaking of time-reversal lifts a degeneracy of the K and K’ valleys in the momentum space Brillouin zone. Lifting this degeneracy, we unveil underlying spatial symmetry properties of graphene in odd-order third- and fifth- harmonic generation which should otherwise be unobservable. We also show experimentally, for the first time, that valley polarization and population can be extracted using our technique.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics
Thesis Advisors
Gaeta, Theodore J.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
September 8, 2021