Dissipative self-organization in optical space

Chad Ropp, Nicolas Bachelard, David Barth, Yuan Wang, Xiang Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


The complex behaviours of schools of fish and swarms of bacteria can be emulated in soft-matter systems that assemble into flocks and active nematics, respectively. These artificial structures emerge far from thermodynamic equilibrium through the process of dissipative self-organization, in which many-body interactions coordinate energy dissipation. The development of such active matter has deepened our understanding of living systems. Yet, the application of dissipative self-organization has been restricted to soft-matter systems, whose elements organize through their respective motions. Here, we demonstrate dissipative self-organization in solid-state photonics. Our structure consists of a random array of Fabry–Pérot resonators that are externally driven and interact coherently through thermo-optical feedback. At sufficient optical driving power, the system undergoes a phase transition into a robustly organized non-equilibrium state that actively partitions energy dissipation, while displaying resiliency to perturbations and collective memory. Self-organizing photonics opens possibilities for developing scalable architectures and life-like networks for brain-inspired computation.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)739-743
Number of pages5
JournalNature Photonics
Issue number12
StatePublished - Oct 29 2018
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2022-06-09
Acknowledged KAUST grant number(s): OSR-2016-CRG5-2950-03
Acknowledgements: This work was supported by the Laboratory Directed Research and Development Program (Non-Equilibrium Metamaterials,18-174) of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory under US Department of Energy contract no. DE-AC02-05CH11231 for theory and optical design and measurement. Sample fabrication at the Molecular Foundry was supported by the Office of Science, Office of Basic Energy Sciences, of the US Department of Energy under contract no. DE-AC02-05CH11231. Support was also provided by the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology Office of Sponsored Research (OSR) (award OSR-2016-CRG5-2950-03) for data analysis.
This publication acknowledges KAUST support, but has no KAUST affiliated authors.


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