Non-reciprocal devices—in which light is transmitted with different efficiencies along opposite directions—are key technologies for modern photonic applications, yet their compact and miniaturized implementation remains an open challenge. Among different avenues, nonlinearity-induced non-reciprocity has attracted significant attention due to the absence of external bias and the ease of integrability within conventional material platforms. So far, nonlinearity-induced non-reciprocity has been demonstrated only in guided platforms using high-quality-factor resonators. Here we demonstrate ultrathin optical metasurfaces with a large non-reciprocal response for free-space radiation based on silicon thermo-optic nonlinearities. Our metasurfaces combine an out-of-plane asymmetry—necessary to obtain non-reciprocity—with in-plane broken symmetry, which finely tunes the radiative linewidth of quasi-bound states in the continuum. Third-order thermo-optic nonlinearities, engaged by the quasi-bound state in the continuum, are shown to enable over 10 dB of non-reciprocal transmission and less than 3 dB of insertion loss, for impinging average intensities smaller than 3 kW cm–2. Numerical calculations suggest that the build-up and relaxation times of the non-reciprocal response can approach sub-microsecond scales, only limited by thermal dissipation. The demonstrated devices merge the field of non-reciprocity with ultrathin metasurface technologies, offering an exciting functionality for signal processing and routing, communications and protection of high-power laser cavities.

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Springer Nature
The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO)
Nat. Photon.
Photonic Materials

Cotrufo, M., Cordaro, A., Sounas, D., Polman, A., & Alù, A. (2024). Passive bias-free non-reciprocal metasurfaces based on thermally nonlinear quasi-bound states in the continuum. Nat. Photon., 18(1), 81–90. doi:10.1038/s41566-023-01333-7