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Phys Rev Lett. 2010 Jul 30;105(5):053901. Epub 2010 Jul 26.

Coherent perfect absorbers: time-reversed lasers.

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  • 1Department of Applied Physics, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut 06520, USA.


We show that an arbitrary body or aggregate can be made perfectly absorbing at discrete frequencies if a precise amount of dissipation is added under specific conditions of coherent monochromatic illumination. This effect arises from the interaction of optical absorption and wave interference and corresponds to moving a zero of the elastic S matrix onto the real wave vector axis. It is thus the time-reversed process of lasing at threshold. The effect is demonstrated in a simple Si slab geometry illuminated in the 500-900 nm range. Coherent perfect absorbers act as linear, absorptive interferometers, which may be useful as detectors, transducers, and switches.

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