Light Condensation and Localization in Disordered Photonic Media: Theory and Large Scale ab initio Simulations

  • Laszlo Daniel Toth

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


Disordered photonics is the study of light in random media. In a disordered photonic medium, multiple scattering of light and coherence, together with the fundamental principle of reciprocity, produce a wide range of interesting phenomena, such as enhanced backscattering and Anderson localization of light. They are also responsible for the existence of modes in these random systems. It is known that analogous processes to Bose-Einstein condensation can occur in classical wave systems, too. Classical condensation has been studied in several contexts in photonics: pulse formation in lasers, mode-locking theory and coherent emission of disordered lasers. All these systems have the common theme of possessing a large ensemble of waves or modes, together with nonlinearity, dispersion or gain. In this work, we study light condensation and its connection with light localization in a disordered, passive dielectric medium. We develop a theory for the modes inside the disordered resonator, which combines the Feshbach projection technique with spin-glass theory and statistical physics. In particular, starting from the Maxwell’s equations, we map the system to a spherical p-spin model with p = 2. The spins are replaced by modes and the temperature is related to the fluctuations in the environment. We study the equilibrium thermodynamics of the system in a general framework and show that two distinct phases exist: a paramagnetic phase, where all the modes are randomly oscillating and a condensed phase, where the energy condensates on a single mode. The thermodynamic quantities can be explicitly interpreted and can also be computed from the disorder-averaged time domain correlation function. We launch an ab initio simulation campaign using our own code and the Shaheen supercomputer to test the theoretical predictions. We construct photonic samples of varying disorder and find computationally relevant ways to obtain the thermodynamic quantities. We observe the phase transition and also link the condensation process to the localization. Our research could be a step towards the ultimate goal: to build a ”photonic mode condenser”, which transforms a broadband spectrum to a narrow one - ideally, to a single mode - with minimal energy loss, aided solely by disorder.
Date of AwardMay 7 2013
Original languageEnglish (US)
Awarding Institution
  • Computer, Electrical and Mathematical Science and Engineering
SupervisorAndrea Fratalocchi (Supervisor)


  • Disorder
  • Light Condensation
  • Light Localization
  • Anderson Localisation
  • Classical Condensation

Cite this