Frozen light in periodic metamaterials
Wave propagation in spatially periodic media, such as photonic crystals, can be qualitatively different from any uniform substance. The differences are particularly pronounced when the electromagnetic wavelength is comparable to the primitive translation of the periodic structure. In such a case, the periodic medium cannot be assigned any meaningful refractive index. Still, such features as negative refraction and/or opposite phase and group velocities for certain directions of light propagation can be found in almost any photonic crystal. The only reservation is that unlike hypothetical uniform left-handed media, photonic crystals are essentially anisotropic at frequency range of interest. Consider now a plane wave incident on a semi-infinite photonic crystal. One can assume, for instance, that in the case of positive refraction, the normal components of the group and the phase velocities of the transmitted Bloch wave have the same sign, while in the case of negative refraction, those components have opposite signs. What happens if the normal component of the transmitted wave group velocity vanishes? Let us call it a "zero-refraction" case. At first sight, zero normal component of the transmitted wave group velocity implies total reflection of the incident wave. But we demonstrate that total reflection is not the only possibility. Instead, the transmitted wave can appear in the form of an abnormal grazing mode with huge amplitude and nearly tangential group velocity. This spectacular phenomenon is extremely sensitive to the frequency and direction of propagation of the incident plane wave. These features can be very attractive in numerous applications, such as higher harmonic generation and wave mixing, light amplification and lasing, highly efficient superprizms, etc.