Journal of Nanophotonics • Open AccessPhoton-based and classical descriptions in nanophotonics: a review
The centrality of the photon concept in modern physics is strongly evident in wide spheres of photonics and nanophotonics. Despite the resilience and persistence of earlier classical representations, there are numerous optical features and phenomena that only truly photon-based descriptions of theory can properly address. It is crucial to cast theory in terms of observables, and in this respect the quantum theory of light engages most directly and pragmatically with experiment. No other theory adequately reconciles the discreteness in energy of optical quanta, with their characteristic quantum mechanical delocalization in space. Examples of the distinctiveness of a photonic representation are to be found in nonclassical optical correlations; intensity fluctuations and phase; polarization, spin, and information content; measures of optical chirality; near-field interactions; and plasmonics. Increasingly, links between these fundamental properties and features are proving significant in the context of nanoscale interactions. Yet, even as new technologies are being built on the framework of modern photonics, a number of difficult questions surrounding the nature of the photon still remain. Both in its flourishing applications and in matters of fundamental entity, the photon is still a subject very much at the heart of current research.