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Physical Review A

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Experiments near the lock-in region in maximally dissipative non-Hermitian systems, e.g., conventional laser gyroscopes near the deadband, have run up against the Petermann limit, where excess noise exactly cancels any scale-factor enhancement resulting in no overall enhancement in precision. As a result, one might be tempted to conclude that exceptional points (EPs) generally cannot be used to increase the precision of laser sensors. Indeed, using a linear eigenmode analysis we show that the Petermann limit applies not just to maximally dissipative systems, but for any type of EP, owing to the fact that EPs are rotationally invariant. It turns out, however, that this restriction comes from the assumption of linearity. We find that nonlinearity breaks the rotation symmetry such that the different types of EPs are no longer equivalent above threshold. In particular, EPs in conservatively coupled systems can lead to an increase in the fundamental precision beyond the Petermann limit as a result of gain saturation. Importantly, we find that only one mode lases under these conditions. We show that the beat note can be recovered by interference with an auxiliary mode, but that this has consequences for the quantum and classical noise that depend on the recovery scheme. Thus, it remains to be seen whether practical experiments can be designed that can take advantage of this enhancement.


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