Transmission channels for light in absorbing random media: from diffusive to ballistic-like transport

S.F. Liew, S.M. Popoff, Allard Mosk, Willem L. Vos, H. Cao

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While the absorption of light is ubiquitous in nature and in applications, the question remains how absorption modifies the transmission channels in random media. We present a numerical study on the effects of optical absorption on the maximal transmission and minimal reflection channels in a two-dimensional disordered waveguide. In the weak absorption regime, where the system length is less than the diffusive absorption length, the maximal transmission channel is dominated by diffusive transport and it is equivalent to the minimal reflection channel. Its frequency bandwidth is determined by the underlying quasimode width. However, when the absorption is strong, light transport in the maximal transmission channel undergoes a sharp transition and exhibits ballistic-like transport. Its frequency bandwidth increases with absorption, and the exact scaling varies with the sample's realization. The minimal reflection channel becomes different from the maximal transmission channel and becomes dominated by absorption. Counterintuitively, we observe in some samples that the minimum reflection eigenvalue increases with absorption. Our results show that strong absorption turns open channels in random media from diffusive to ballistic-like transport.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)224202-1-224202-10
Number of pages10
JournalPhysical review B: Condensed matter and materials physics
Issue number22
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • METIS-305454
  • IR-94927


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