New directions for high-Q optical micro-resonators: Soliton-based optical clocks to compact Sagnac gyros
Like a tuning fork for light, optical resonators have a characteristic set of frequencies at which it is possible to confine light waves. At these frequencies, optical energy can be efficiently stored for lengths of time characterized by the resonator Q factor, roughly the storage time in cycles of oscillation. In the last ten years there has been remarkable progress in boosting this storage time in micro and millimeter-scale optical resonators. Chip-based devices have attained Q factors of nearly 1 billion and micro-machined crystalline devices have provided Qs exceeding 100 billion. The resulting long, energy-storage times combined with small form factors have made it possible to access a wide range of nonlinear phenomena and to create laser devices that operate with remarkably low turn-on powers. Also, new science has resulted from radiation-pressure coupling of optical and mechanical degrees-of-freedom in the resonators themselves.