Researchers create a self-organizing cavity of unprecedented dimensions – Enerzine

One of the main goals in the field of quantum optics and photonics is to increase the intensity of the interaction between light and matter. This would make it possible, for example, to produce better photodetectors or quantum light sources.

A team of Danish researchers recently proposed a new approach to creating a self-assembled cavity with an air gap on the scale of a few atoms.

Researchers have shown that the use of optical resonators, which store light for a long time, enables stronger interaction between light and matter. If the resonator is also very small, so that the light is compressed into a tiny area of ​​space, the interaction is even stronger. A resonator that can store light for a long time in an area the size of a single atom would be ideal.

Physicists and engineers have long been trying to figure out how far optical resonators can be miniaturized without becoming too absorbent. It is a similar question to how far you can miniaturize a semiconductor device. According to the semiconductor industry’s forecasts for the next 15 years, the minimum possible width of a semiconductor structure will be no less than 8 nm or several dozen atoms.

Self-organized cavities at the atomic level

The DTU Electro team demonstrated 8nm cavities last year, but are now proposing a new approach to fabricate a self-assembled cavity with an air gap on the scale of a few atoms. Their paper, titled “Self-assembled photonic cavities with atomic-scale confinement,” describes the results and was published in the journal Nature.

Their experiment consists of two halves of silicon structures suspended from springs. First, the silicon component is firmly connected to a glass layer. The devices are manufactured using conventional semiconductor technology, so the two halves are only a few tens of nanometers apart. After selectively etching the glass, the structure is detached and suspended only by the springs. Because the two halves are very close together, they attract each other due to surface forces.


This research represents a significant advance in the field of quantum optics and photonics. The research team managed to create a self-organized cavity with an air gap on the order of a few atoms, which could enable stronger interaction between light and matter.

For better understanding

What is an optical resonator?

An optical resonator is a device that can store light for a long period of time, allowing for stronger interaction between light and matter.

What is a self-organized cavity?

A self-organized cavity is a structure that forms itself without external intervention. In this case, the researchers created a cavity with an air gap the size of a few atoms.

What are the possible applications of this research?

This research could find application in various areas, such as electronics, NanoroboticsSensors, quantum technologies and many others.

What are the advantages of this new approach?

This new approach enables the creation of atomic structures using conventional manufacturing methods. This could help overcome the limitations of traditional lithography and engraving.

What challenges does this research face?

Challenges include the need to make structures extremely small without making them too absorbent, as well as the need to connect these structures to the rest of the world using conventional semiconductor technology.


Caption: Image of the core of the photonic cavity, which consists of two halves assembled into a single unit. The cavity confines the light within the gap, which is only a few atoms wide, as shown by the magnifying glass’s field of view. Illustration by Thor AS Weis. Photo credit: Illustration by Thor AS Weis.

Article: “Self-organized photonic cavities with atomic-level confinement” – DOI: 10.1038/s41586-023-06736-8

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