I am not talking about mirrors, just a plain window made of glass like material. Would it be possible to allow light pass only in one direction but not the other?
No. Or at least, not without special caveats.
Edit After comments by Mark Beadles, David Zaslavsky, and Ron Maimon, I should clarify that you cannot have a plain window that lets all light through in one direction but reflects all light coming the other direction. Thus, you cannot have a window that doesn't absorb radiation at all and also has the prescribed one-direction property.
Imagine the glass separates two rooms which are completely isolated systems, except that they interact by sending electromagnetic radiation through the glass. We'll say that light can only pass from left to right.
Further suppose the electromagnetic radiation in the rooms is a simple black-body spectrum, so each room has a well-defined temperature. Imagine the temperature is higher on the left.
Because light only passes from left to right, heat will be transferred from the hotter room on the left to the colder room on the right with no other effect. This violates the second law of thermodynamics.
You're looking for something called a "light diode" or "optical isolator". The simplest is two polarizing sheets 45 degrees apart, with a 45 degree Faraday rotator in between. Here's why it doesn't violate the second law of thermodynamics.
One of the components--the Faraday rotator--is thick and bulky and usually covers only a small area. So I guess it doesn't qualify as a "glass like material".
Yes, evidently. A. B. Khanikaev, C. Wu, H. Mousavi, and G. Shvets, "One-Way Slow Light in Nonreciprocal Low-Symmetry Metamaterials," in Quantum Electronics and Laser Science Conference, OSA Technical Digest (CD) (Optical Society of America, 2011), paper QThA6. http://www.opticsinfobase.org/abstract.cfm?URI=QELS-2011-QThA6
But of course this is with a metamaterial, not "a plain window made of glass like material". I don't know whether a metamaterial fits your criteria or not.
Fundamentally, yes. One needs to break the time-reversal symmetry by either introducing a magnetic effect or modulating the "glass-like" materials dynamically.
Practically, this is a very active research area. One could, for example, inject carriers into silicon dioxide at a very high frequency to achieve the one-way effect.
protected by Qmechanic♦ Oct 28 '13 at 17:15
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