Coherent perfect absorption in deeply subwavelength films in the single-photon regime

Roger, Thomas and Vezzoli, Stefano and Bolduc, Eliot and Valente, Joao and Heitz, Julius J F and Jeffers, John and Soci, Cesare and Leach, Jonathan and Couteau, Christophe and Zheludev, Nikolay I. and Faccio, Daniele (2015) Coherent perfect absorption in deeply subwavelength films in the single-photon regime. Nature Communications, 6. 7031. ISSN 2041-1723 (

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The technologies of heating, photovoltaics, water photocatalysis and artificial photosynthesis depend on the absorption of light and novel approaches such as coherent absorption from a standing wave promise total dissipation of energy. Extending the control of absorption down to very low light levels and eventually to the single-photon regime is of great interest and yet remains largely unexplored. Here we demonstrate the coherent absorption of single photons in a deeply subwavelength 50% absorber. We show that while the absorption of photons from a travelling wave is probabilistic, standing wave absorption can be observed deterministically, with nearly unitary probability of coupling a photon into a mode of the material, for example, a localized plasmon when this is a metamaterial excited at the plasmon resonance. These results bring a better understanding of the coherent absorption process, which is of central importance for light harvesting, detection, sensing and photonic data processing applications.