Many bodies make one coherent burst of light

“What’s unique about this is the delay time between when we create the population of electron-hole pairs and when the burst happens. Macroscopic coherence builds up spontaneously during this delay,” Noe said.

Kono said the basic phenomenon of superfluorescence has been seen for years in molecular and atomic gases but wasn’t sought in a solid-state material until recently. The researchers now feel such superfluorescence can be fine-tuned. “Eventually we want to observe the same phenomenon at room temperature, and at much lower magnetic fields, maybe even without a magnetic field,” he said.

Even better, Kono said, it may be possible to create superfluorescent pulses with any desired wavelength in solid-state materials, powered by electrical rather than light energy.

The researchers said they expect the paper to draw serious interest from their peers in a variety of disciplines, including condensed matter physics; quantum optics; atomic, molecular and optical physics; semiconductor optoelectronics; quantum information science; and materials science and engineering.

There’s much work to be done, Kono said. “There are several puzzles that we don’t understand,” he said. “One thing is a spectral shift over time: The wavelength of the burst is actually changing as a function of time when it comes out. It’s very weird, and that has never been seen.”

Noe also observed superfluorescent emission with several distinct peaks in the time domain, another mystery to be investigated.

The paper’s co-authors include Rice postdoctoral researcher Ji-Hee Kim; former graduate student Jinho Lee and Professor David Reitze of the University of Florida, Gainesville; researchers Yongrui Wang and Aleksander Wojcik and Professor Alexey Belyanin of Texas A&M University; and Stephen McGill, an assistant scholar and scientist at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory at Florida State University, Tallahassee.

Support for the research came from the National Science Foundation, with support for work at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory from the state of Florida.

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Read the abstract at http://www.nature.com/nphys/journal/vaop/ncurrent/abs/nphys2207.html

National High Magnetic Field Laboratory: http://www.magnet.fsu.edu/

Images for download:

media.rice.edu/images/media/NewsRels/0127_KONO.JPG

Rice University researchers have confirmed a long-held theory that solid-state materials are capable of producing an effect known as superfluorescence. From left: Rice physicist Junichiro Kono, postdoctoral researcher Ji-Hee Kim and graduate student Tim Noe. (Credit: Jeff Fitlow/Rice University)

media.rice.edu/images/media/NewsRels/0130_figfs.jpg

Pumping laser pulses into a stack of quantum wells created an effect physicists had long sought but not seen until now: superfluorescence in a solid-state material. The Rice University lab of physicist Junichiro Kono reported the results in Nature Physics. (Credit: Tim Noe/Rice University)

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About Mike Williams

Mike Williams is a senior media relations specialist in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.