Spontaneous symmetry breaking is an important concept in many areas of physics. A fundamentally simple symmetry-breaking mechanism in electrodynamics occurs between counterpropagating electromagnetic waves in ring resonators, mediated by the Kerr nonlinearity. The interaction of counterpropagating light in bidirectionally pumped microresonators finds application in the realization of optical nonreciprocity (for optical diodes), studies of PT-symmetric systems, and the generation of counterpropagating solitons. Here, we present comprehensive analytical and dynamical models for the nonlinear Kerr interaction of counterpropagating light in a dielectric ring resonator. In particular, we study discontinuous behavior in the onset of spontaneous symmetry breaking, indicating divergent sensitivity to small external perturbations. These results can be applied to realize, for example, highly sensitive near-field or rotation sensors. We then generalize to a time-dependent model, which predicts different types of dynamical behavior, including oscillatory regimes that could enable Kerr-nonlinearity-driven all-optical oscillators. The physics of our model can be applied to other systems featuring Kerr-type interaction between two distinct modes, such as for light of opposite circular polarization in nonlinear resonators, which are commonly described by coupled Lugiato-Lefever equations.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics