Multi-cavity photonic systems, known as photonic molecules (PMs), are ideal multi-well potential building blocks for advanced quantum and nonlinear optics. A key phenomenon arising in double well potentials is the spontaneous breaking of the inversion symmetry, i.e. a transition from a delocalized to two localized states in the wells, which are mirror images of each other. Although few theoretical studies have addressed mirror-symmetry breaking in micro and nanophotonic systems, no experimental evidence has been reported to date.
In this talk I will show that, thanks to the potential barrier engineering we have implemented in a PM composed of two coupled photonic crystal nanolasers, we are able to demonstrate spontaneous mirror-symmetry breaking through a pitchfork bifurcation. Coexistence of localized states can be shown by switching them with short pulses. This offers exciting prospects for the realization of ultra-compact, integrated, scalable optical flip-flops based on spontaneous symmetry breaking. Furthermore, we predict such transitions with few intracavity photons for future devices with strong quantum correlations.