Direct Observation of Topological Edge States in Silicon Photonic Crystals: Spin, Dispersion, and Chiral Routing
Topological protection in photonics offers new prospects for guiding and manipulating classical and quantum information. The mechanism of spin-orbit coupling promises the emergence of edge states that are helical; exhibiting unidirectional propagation that is topologically protected against back-scattering. We directly observe the topological states of a photonic analogue of electronic materials exhibiting the quantum Spin Hall effect, living at the interface between two silicon photonic crystals with different topological order. Through the far-field radiation that is inherent to the states’ existence we characterize their properties, including linear dispersion and low loss. Importantly, we find that the edge state pseudospin is encoded in unique circular far-field polarization and linked to unidirectional propagation, thus revealing a signature of the underlying photonic spin-orbit coupling. We use this connection to selectively excite different edge states with polarized light, and directly visualize their routing along sharp chiral waveguide junctions.