Asymmetric balance in symmetry breaking

Bruno Garbin, Julien Fatome, Gian-Luca Oppo, Miro Erkintalo, Stuart G. Murdoch, Stéphane Coen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Citations (Scopus)
9 Downloads (Pure)


Spontaneous symmetry breaking is central to our understanding of physics and explains many natural phenomena, from cosmic scales to subatomic particles. Its use for applications requires devices with a high level of symmetry, but engineered systems are always imperfect. Surprisingly, the impact of such imperfections has barely been studied, and restricted to a single asymmetry. Here, we experimentally study spontaneous symmetry breaking with two controllable asymmetries. We remarkably find that features typical of spontaneous symmetry breaking, while destroyed by one asymmetry, can be restored by introducing a second asymmetry. In essence, asymmetries are found to balance each other. Our study illustrates aspects of the universal unfolding of the pitchfork bifurcation, and provides insights into a key fundamental process. It also has practical implications, showing that asymmetry can be exploited as an additional degree of freedom. In particular, it could enable sensors based on symmetry breaking or exceptional points to reach divergent sensitivity even in presence of imperfections. Our experimental implementation built around an optical fiber ring additionally constitutes observation of the polarization symmetry breaking of passive driven nonlinear resonators.
Original languageEnglish
Article number023244
Number of pages12
JournalPhysical Review Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 28 May 2020


  • spontaneous symmetry breaking
  • nonlinear resonators
  • bifurcation


Dive into the research topics of 'Asymmetric balance in symmetry breaking'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this