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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available November 15, 2024
  2. Photonic time-varying systems have attracted significant attention owing to their rich physics and potential opportunities for new and enhanced functionalities. In this context, the duality of space and time in wave physics has been particularly fruitful to uncover interesting physical effects in the temporal domain, such as reflection/refraction at temporal interfaces and momentum-bandgaps in time crystals. However, the characteristics of the temporal/frequency dimension, particularly its relation to causality and energy conservation (ℏ<#comment/>ω<#comment/>is energy, whereasℏ<#comment/>kis momentum), create challenges and constraints that are unique to time-varying systems and are not present in their spatially varying counterparts. Here, we overview two key physical aspects of time-varying photonics that have only received marginal attention so far, namely temporal dispersion and external power requirements, and explore their implications. We discuss how temporal dispersion, an inherent property of any physical causal material, makes the fields evolve continuously at sharp temporal interfaces and may limit the strength of fast temporal modulations and of various resulting effects. Furthermore, we show that changing the refractive index in time always involves large amounts of energy. We derive power requirements to observe a time-crystal response in one of the most popular material platforms in time-varying photonics, i.e., transparent conducting oxides, and we argue that these effects are almost always obscured by less exotic nonlinear phenomena. These observations and findings shed light on the physics and constraints of time-varying photonics, and may guide the design and implementation of future time-modulated photonic systems.

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  3. Abstract

    Light reflection plays a crucial role in a number of modern technologies. In this paper, analytical expressions for maximal reflected power in any direction and for any polarization are given for generic planar structures made of a single material represented by a complex scalar susceptibility. The problem of optimal light‐matter interactions to maximize reflection is formulated as the solution of an optimization problem in terms of the induced currents, subject to energy conservation and passivity, which admits a global upper bound by using Lagrangian duality. The derived upper bounds apply to a broad range of planar structures, including metasurfaces, gratings, homogenized films, photonic crystal slabs, and more generally, any inhomogeneous planar structure irrespective of its geometrical details. These bounds also set the limit on the minimum possible thickness, for a given lossy material, to achieve a desired reflectance. Moreover, the results allow the discovery of parameter regions where large improvements in the efficiency of a reflective structure are possible compared to existing designs. Examples are given of the implications of these findings for the design of superior and compact reflective components made of real, imperfect (i.e., lossy) materials, such as ultra‐thin and efficient gratings, polarization converters, and light‐weight mirrors for solar/laser sails.

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  4. Spaceplates are novel flat-optic devices that implement the optical response of a free-space volume over a smaller length, effectively “compressing space” for light propagation. Together with flat lenses such as metalenses or diffractive lenses, spaceplates have the potential to enable the miniaturization of any free-space optical system. While the fundamental and practical bounds on the performance metrics of flat lenses have been well studied in recent years, a similar understanding of the ultimate limits of spaceplates is lacking, especially regarding the issue of bandwidth, which remains as a crucial roadblock for the adoption of this platform. In this work, we derive fundamental bounds on the bandwidth of spaceplates as a function of their numerical aperture and compression ratio (ratio by which the free-space pathway is compressed). The general form of these bounds is universal and can be applied and specialized for different broad classes of space-compression devices, regardless of their particular implementation. Our findings also offer relevant insights into the physical mechanism at the origin of generic space-compression effects and may guide the design of higher performance spaceplates, opening new opportunities for ultra-compact, monolithic, planar optical systems for a variety of applications.

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  5. Causality—the principle stating that the output of a system cannot temporally precede the input—is a universal property of nature. Here, we show that analogous input-output relations can also be realized in the spectral domain by leveraging the peculiar properties of time-modulated non-Hermitian photonic systems. Specifically, we uncover the existence of a broad class of complex time-modulated metamaterials that obey the time-domain equivalent of the well-established frequency-domain Kramers–Kronig relations (a direct consequence of causality). We find that, in the scattering response of such time-modulated systems, the output frequencies are inherently prohibited from spectrally preceding the input frequencies, and hence we refer to these systems as “spectrally causal.” We explore the consequences of this newly introduced concept for several relevant applications, including broadband perfect absorption, temporal cloaking of an “event,” and truly unidirectional propagation along a synthetic dimension. By emulating the concept of causality in the spectral domain and providing new tools to extend the field of temporally modulated metamaterials (“chrono-metamaterials”) into the complex realm, our findings may open unexplored opportunities and enable relevant technological advances in various areas of photonics and, more broadly, of wave physics and engineering.

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  6. Metals, semiconductors, metamaterials, and various two-dimensional materials with plasmonic dispersion exhibit numerous exotic physical effects in the presence of an external bias, for example an external static magnetic field or electric current. These physical phenomena range from Faraday rotation of light propagating in the bulk to strong confinement and directionality of guided modes on the surface and are a consequence of the breaking of Lorentz reciprocity in these systems. The recent introduction of relevant concepts of topological physics, translated from condensed-matter systems to photonics, has not only given a new perspective on some of these topics by relating certain bulk properties of plasmonic media to the surface phenomena, but has also led to the discovery of new regimes of truly unidirectional, backscattering-immune, surface-wave propagation. In this article, we briefly review the concepts of nonreciprocity and topology and describe their manifestation in plasmonic materials. Furthermore, we use these concepts to classify and discuss the different classes of guided surface modes existing on the interfaces of various plasmonic systems. 
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