A chemical potential for light

TitleA chemical potential for light
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsHafezi, M, Adhikari, P, Taylor, JM
JournalPhysical Review B
Date Published2014/05/22

Photons are not conserved in interactions with other matter. Consequently, when understanding the equation of state and thermodynamics of photons, while we have a concept of temperature for energy conservation, there is no equivalent chemical potential for particle number conservation. However, the notion of a chemical potential is crucial in understanding a wide variety of single- and many-body effects, from transport in conductors and semi-conductors to phase transitions in electronic and atomic systems. Here we show how a direct modification of the system-bath coupling via parametric oscillation creates an effective chemical potential for photons even in the thermodynamic limit. Specific implementations, using circuit-QED or optomechanics, are feasible using current technologies, and we show a detailed example demonstrating the emergence of Mott Insulator-superfluid transition in a lattice of nonlinear oscillators. Our approach paves the way for quantum simulation, quantum sources and even electron-like circuits with light.