M. Albrechtsen, B. V. Lahijani, R. E. Christiansen, V. T. H. Nguyen, L. N. Casses, S. E. Hansen, N. Stenger, O. Sigmund, H. Jansen, J. Mørk and S. Stobbe
Nature Communications 13, 6281 (2022)
Nanotechnology enables in principle a precise mapping from design to device but relied so far on human intuition and simple optimizations. In nanophotonics, a central question is how to make devices in which the light-matter interaction strength is limited only by materials and nanofabrication. Here, we integrate measured fabrication constraints into topology optimization, aiming for the strongest possible light-matter interaction in a compact silicon membrane, demonstrating an unprecedented photonic nanocavity with a mode volume of V ~ 3 × 10−4 λ3, quality factor Q ~ 1100, and footprint 4 λ2 for telecom photons with a λ ~ 1550 nm wavelength. We fabricate the cavity, which confines photons inside 8 nm silicon bridges with ultra-high aspect ratios of 30 and use near-field optical measurements to perform the first experimental demonstration of photon confinement to a single hotspot well below the diffraction limit in dielectrics. Our framework intertwines topology optimization with fabrication and thereby initiates a new paradigm of high-performance additive and subtractive manufacturing.