Coexistence of stable and unstable population dynamics in a nonlinear non-Hermitian mechanical dimer

Published in Physical Review E, 2023

Enrico Martello, Yaashnaa Singhal, Bryce Gadway, Tomoki Ozawa, Hannah M. Price
Phys. Rev. E 107, 064211 (2023)

Non-Hermitian two-site dimers serve as minimal models in which to explore the interplay of gain and loss in dynamical systems. In this paper, we experimentally and theoretically investigate the dynamics of non-Hermitian dimer models with non-reciprocal hoppings between the two sites. We investigate two types of non-Hermitian couplings; one is when asymmetric hoppings are externally introduced, and the other is when the non-reciprocal hoppings depend on the population imbalance between the two sites, thus introducing the non-Hermiticity in a dynamical manner. We engineer the models in our synthetic mechanical set-up comprised of two classical harmonic oscillators coupled by measurement-based feedback. For fixed non-reciprocal hoppings, we observe that, when the strength of these hoppings is increased, there is an expected transition from a PT-symmetric regime, where oscillations in the population are stable and bounded, to a PT-broken regime, where the oscillations are unstable and the population grows/decays exponentially. However, when the non-Hermiticity is dynamically introduced, we also find a third intermediate regime in which these two behaviors coexist, meaning that we can tune from stable to unstable population dynamics by simply changing the initial phase difference between the two sites. As we explain, this behavior can be understood by theoretically exploring the emergent fixed points of a related dimer model in which the non-reciprocal hoppings depends on the normalized population imbalance. Our study opens the way for the future exploration of non-Hermitian dynamics and exotic lattice models in synthetic mechanical networks.