From a very general perspective, optical devices can be viewed as constructions based on the spatial engineering of the optical index of refraction. Sculpting the real part of the refractive index produces the wide variety of known passive optical devices, such as waveguides, resonators, gratings, among a plethora of other possibilities for managing the transport of light. Less attention has been directed to engineering the imaginary part of the refractive index – that is responsible for optical gain and absorption – in conjunction with the real part of the refractive index. Optical gain is the building block of amplifiers and lasers, while optical absorption is exploited in photovoltaic devices, photodetectors, and as dopants in lasing media. Recently, the field of non-Hermitian photonics has emerged in which the new opportunities afforded by the spatial engineering of the optical gain and loss in an optical device are being exploited. Indeed, the judicious design of such active devices can result in counterintuitive physical effects, new optical functionalities that enable unexpected applications, and enhanced performance of existing devices. In this work, we have theoretically and experimentally demonstrated four different non-Hermitian arrangements exhibiting novel non-trivial features. First, we show that the direction of energy flow can be controlled inside an active cavity by tuning the optical gain. Reversing the direction of the energy flow within the cavity – such that Poynting's vector points backwards towards the source – takes place when the cavity gain exceeds a certain threshold value, which we have named 'Poynting's threshold'. To realize this effect, we have employed a fiber-based arrangement that allows for unambiguous determining of the direction of the energy flow within the cavity. Second, we have studied the implication of Poynting's threshold with respect to spectral reflection from an active cavity. Surprisingly, the reflection at Poynting's threshold becomes spectrally flat and is guaranteed to attain unity reflectivity while maintaining non-zero transmission. In other words, at Poynting's threshold, the cavity becomes a 'transparent perfect mirror'. We have realized this effect in an on-chip active waveguide device and in an optical-fiber-based system. Third, we have examined a parity-time (PT) symmetric fiber-based cavity consisting of two coupled sub-cavities, one of which contains gain and the other loss. In contrast to all previous on-chip PT-symmetric micro-devices, the exotic features of such a system may be expected to vanish when the length of the cavity is extremely large (exceeding 1 km in our experiments) due to the strong fluctuations in the optical phase. Nevertheless, we have found that some of the central features of such a system survive; e.g., loss-induced enhancement of lasing power is still observable. Finally, we have demonstrated – for the first time – the interferometric perfect absorption of light in a weakly absorbing (erbium-doped) fiber system. Additionally, we verified that this coherent effect is the most efficient configuration with respect to utilizing the absorbing species in the medium.


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Graduation Date





Abouraddy, Ayman


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Optics and Photonics


Optics and Photonics

Degree Program

Optics and Photonics









Release Date

August 2023

Length of Campus-only Access

5 years

Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)