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Enhanced sensitivity via non-Hermitian topology

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posted on 2023-05-09, 16:00 authored by Midya Parto, Christian Leefmans, James Williams, Alireza Marandi
Sensors are indispensable tools of modern life that are ubiquitously used in diverse settings ranging from smartphones and autonomous vehicles to the healthcare industry and space technology. By interfacing multiple sensors that collectively interact with the signal to be measured, one can go beyond the signal-to-noise ratios (SNR) than those attainable by the individual constituting elements. Such distributed sensing techniques have also been implemented in the quantum regime, where a linear increase in the SNR has been achieved via using entangled states. Along similar lines, coupled non- Hermitian systems have provided yet additional degrees of freedom to obtain better sensors via higher-order exceptional points. Quite recently, a new class of non-Hermitian systems, known as non-Hermitian topological sensors (NTOS) has been theoretically proposed. Remarkably, the synergistic interplay between non-Hermiticity and topology is expected to bestow such sensors with an enhanced sensitivity that grows exponentially with the size of the sensor network. Here, we experimentally demonstrate NTOS using a network of photonic time-multiplexed resonators in the synthetic dimension represented by optical pulses. By judiciously programming the delay lines in such a network, we realize the archetypical Hatano-Nelson model for our non-Hermitian topological sensing scheme. Our experimentally measured sensitivities for different lattice sizes confirm the characteristic exponential enhancement of NTOS. We show that this peculiar response arises due to the combined synergy between non-Hermiticity and topology, something that is absent in Hermitian topological lattices. Our demonstration of NTOS paves the way for realizing sensors with unprecedented sensitivities.

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