Disordered Plamonics and Complex Metamaterials

  • J. S. Totero Gongora

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Complex systems are ensembles of interconnected elements where mutual interaction and an optimized amount of disorder produce advanced functionalities. These systems are abundant in our daily experience: typical examples are the brain, biological ecosystems, society, and finance. In the last century, researchers have investigated the fundamental properties of disordered systems, unveiling fascinating and counterintuitive dynamics. The main aim of this Dissertation is the study of a new platform of disorder-enhanced photonics systems, denoted as Complex Metamaterials. Due to its ultrafast time scale nanophotonics represents an ideal framework to investigate and harness complex dynamics. Starting from the theoretical modeling of disordered plasmonic systems, I discuss advanced real-life applications, including the generation of highly-resistant structural colors from porous metal surfaces and the realization of early-stage cancer detectors based on surface roughness and self-similarity. In addition to the effects of structural disorder on plasmonic systems I also investigate the complex emission dynamics from non-conventional nanolasers. Lasers represent the quintessential example of a complex photonic system due to the simultaneous presence of strong nonlinearities and multi-mode interactions. At the same time, the integration of nanolasers with silicon-based electronic circuitry represents one of the greatest technological challenges in the field of nanophotonics. By combining ab-initio simulations and analytical modeling, I characterize the nonlinear emission from three-dimensional plasmonic nanolasers known as SPASERs. My results show for the first time the occurrence of a spontaneous rotational emission in spherical SPASERs, which originates from the nonlinear interaction of several lasing modes. I further discuss how rotating nanolasers can be employed as a fundamental building block for integrated quantum simulators, random information sources, and brain-inspired photonics platforms. Leveraging the practical limitations of SPASERs, I also propose a novel concept of near-field nanolaser based on invisible anapole modes. Anapoles constitute a peculiar state of electromagnetic radiation with no far-field emission and they have been recently discovered in dielectric nanoparticles. By integrating anapole lasers in a silicon-compatible platform, I discuss several advanced applications such as spontaneously polarized nanolasers and ultrafast pulse generators on-chip.
Date of AwardMay 2017
Original languageEnglish (US)
Awarding Institution
  • Computer, Electrical and Mathematical Sciences and Engineering
SupervisorAndrea Fratalocchi (Supervisor)


  • Complex photonics
  • Optical complexity
  • Disordered plasmonics
  • spaser
  • Integrated nanolasers
  • Anderson Localization

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