Exploring Matter Made of Light

I will survey ongoing work in my group to make matter from light. We have realized a variety of materials including some that exist in the natural world and others that exist only in the theorists’ minds. I will focus upon the particular challenge of exploring photonic topological matter, beginning with a brief tutorial on the fractional quantum Hall effect to motivate the properties we will need to “teach” our photons to have: I will then describe (1) how we induce photons to collide with one another, thereby realizing a photon “box” that can only hold one photon at a time; and (2) how we create an artificial magnetic field that induces photons to move in cyclotron orbits. In our quest to make photons behave as materials we will discover that their differences from electrons lead to surprises. Among these, that we have accidentally trapped our photons on the surface of a cone. We will thus conclude with a brief exploration of the first topological matter in curved space.