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Nat Commun. 2012;3:979. doi: 10.1038/ncomms1984.

Quantifying the magnetic nature of light emission.

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  • 1Brown University, School of Engineering, Providence, Rhode Island 02912, USA.


Tremendous advances in the study of magnetic light-matter interactions have recently been achieved using man-made nanostructures that exhibit and exploit an optical magnetic response. However, naturally occurring emitters can also exhibit magnetic resonances in the form of optical-frequency magnetic-dipole transitions. Here we quantify the magnetic nature of light emission using energy- and momentum-resolved spectroscopy, and leverage a pair of spectrally close electric- and magnetic-dipole transitions in trivalent europium to probe vacuum fluctuations in the electric and magnetic fields at the nanometre scale. These results reveal a new tool for nano-optics: an atomic-size quantum emitter that interacts with the magnetic component of light.

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