Coherent perfect absorption in deeply subwavelength films in the single photon regime
The technologies of heating, photovoltaics, water photocatalysis and artificial photosynthesis depend on the absorption of light and novel approaches such as coherent absorption from a standing wave promise total dissipation of energy. Extending the control of absorption down to very low light levels and eventually to the single-photon regime is of great interest and yet remains largely unexplored. Here we demonstrate the coherent absorption of single photons in a deeply subwavelength 50% absorber. We show that while the absorption of photons from a travelling wave is probabilistic, standing wave absorption can be observed deterministically, with nearly unitary probability of coupling a photon into a mode of the material, for example, a localized plasmon when this is a metamaterial excited at the plasmon resonance. These results bring a better understanding of the coherent absorption process, which is of central importance for light harvesting, detection, sensing and photonic data processing applications.