Lines of exceptional points are robust in the three-dimensional non-Hermitian parameter space without requiring any symmetry. However, when more elaborate exceptional structures are considered, the role of symmetry becomes critical. One such case is the exceptional chain (EC), which is formed by the intersection or osculation of multiple exceptional lines (ELs). In this Letter, we investigate a non-Hermitian classical mechanical system and reveal that a symmetry intrinsic to second-order dynamical equations, in combination with the source-free principle of ELs, guarantees the emergence of ECs. This symmetry can be understood as a non-Hermitian generalized latent symmetry, which is absent in prevailing formalisms rooted in first-order Schrödinger-like equations and has largely been overlooked so far. We experimentally confirm and characterize the ECs using an active mechanical oscillator system. Moreover, by measuring eigenvalue braiding around the ELs meeting at a chain point, we demonstrate the source-free principle of directed ELs that underlies the mechanism for EC formation. Our Letter not only enriches the diversity of non-Hermitian exceptional point configurations, but also highlights the new potential for non-Hermitian physics in second-order dynamical systems.
Scopus Subject Areas
- Physics and Astronomy(all)