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Spontaneous symmetry breaking in plasmon lattice lasers
preprintposted on 2023-11-03, 16:00 authored by Nelson de Gaay Fortman, Radoslaw Kolkowski, Debapriya Pal, Said R. K. Rodriguez, Peter Schall, A. Femius Koenderink
Spontaneous symmetry breaking (SSB) is key for our understanding of phase transitions and the spontaneous emergence of order. Photonics provide versatile systems to study SSB. In this work, we report that for a two-dimensional (2D) periodic nonlocal metasurface with gain, SSB occurs in the lasing transition, breaking parity symmetry. We study diffractive hexagonal plasmon nanoparticle lattices, where the K-points in momentum space provide two modes that are exactly degenerate in frequency and identically distributed in space. Using femtosecond pulses to energize the gain medium, we simultaneously capture single shot realspace and wavevector resolved Fourier images of laser emission. By combining Fourier- and real-space, we resolve the two order parameters for which symmetry breaking simultaneously occurs: spatial parity and U(1) (rotational) symmetry breaking, evident respectively as random relative mode amplitude and phase. Thereby, we quantify for the first time SSB in 2D periodic metasurfaces. These currently receive much interest as experimentally accessible implementations of seminal solid-state physics Hamiltonians and provide a large design space for exploring SSB in scenarios with different symmetries, mode degeneracies and topological properties. The methodology reported in this work is generally applicable to 2D plasmonic and dielectric metasurfaces and opens numerous opportunities for the study of SSB and emergence of spatial coherence in metaphotonics.