Gigantic optical nonlinearity in one-dimensional Mott-Hubbard insulators

Nature. 2000 Jun 22;405(6789):929-32. doi: 10.1038/35016036.


The realization of all-optical switching, modulating and computing devices is an important goal in modern optical technology. Nonlinear optical materials with large third-order nonlinear susceptibilities (chi(3)) are indispensable for such devices, because the magnitude of this quantity dominates the device performance. A key strategy in the development of new materials with large nonlinear susceptibilities is the exploration of quasi-one-dimensional systems, or 'quantum wires'--the quantum confinement of electron-hole motion in one-dimensional space can enhance chi(3). Two types of chemically synthesized quantum wires have been extensively studied: the band insulators of silicon polymers, and Peierls insulators of pi-conjugated polymers and platinum halides. In these systems, chi(3) values of 10(-12) to 10(-7) e.s.u. (electrostatic system of units) have been reported. Here we demonstrate an anomalous enhancement of the third-order nonlinear susceptibility in a different category of quantum wires: one-dimensional Mott insulators of 3d transition-metal oxides and halides. By analysing the electroreflectance spectra of these compounds, we measure chi(3) values in the range 10(-8) to 10(-5) e.s.u. The anomalous enhancement results from a large dipole moment between the lowest two excited states of these systems.