Sub-thermal to super-thermal light statistics from a disordered lattice via deterministic control of excitation symmetry
Monochromatic coherent light traversing a disordered photonic medium evolves into a random field whose statistics are dictated by the disorder level. Here we demonstrate experimentally that light statistics can be deterministically tuned in certain disordered lattices, even when the disorder level is held fixed, by controllably breaking the excitation symmetry of the lattice modes. We exploit a lattice endowed with disorder-immune chiral symmetry in which the eigenmodes come in skew-symmetric
... in skew-symmetric pairs. If a single lattice site is excited, a "photonic thermalization gap" emerges: the realm of sub-thermal light statistics is inaccessible regardless of the disorder level. However, by exciting two sites with a variable relative phase, as in a traditional two-path interferometer, the chiral symmetry is judiciously broken and interferometric control over the light statistics is exercised, spanning sub-thermal and super-thermal regimes. These results may help develop novel incoherent lighting sources from coherent lasers.