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 S-matrix onto the real wavevector axis. It is thus the time-reversed process of lasing at threshold. The effect may be demonstrated in a Si slab illuminated in the 500 – 900nm range. Coherent perfect absorbers form a novel class of linear optical elements—absorptive interferometers—which may be useful for controlled optical energy transfer.

© 2010 Optical Society of America

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