We report on the first experimental observation of spontaneous mirror symmetry breaking (SSB) in coherently driven-dissipative coupled optical cavities. SSB is observed as the breaking of the spatial or mirror Z2 symmetry between two symmetrically pumped and evanescently coupled photonic crystal nanocavities, and manifests itself as random intensity localization in one of the two cavities. We show that, in a system featuring repulsive boson interactions (Ugreaterthan0), the observation of a pure pitchfork bifurcation requires negative photon hopping energies (Jlessthan0), which we have realized in our photonic crystal molecule. SSB is observed over a wide range of the two-dimensional parameter space of driving intensity and detuning, where we also find a region that exhibits bistable symmetric behavior. Our results pave the way for the experimental study of limit cycles and deterministic chaos arising from SSB, as well as the study of nonclassical photon correlations close to SSB transitions.

The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) , European Research Council (ERC)
Interacting Photons

Garbin, B., Giraldo, A., Peters, K., Broderick, N. G. R., Spakman, A., Raineri, F., … Yacomotti, A. M. (2022). Spontaneous symmetry breaking in a coherently driven nanophotonic Bose-Hubbard dimer. Phys.Rev.Lett., 128(5), 053901: 1–6. doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.128.053901