Ultraweak long-range interactions of solitons observed over astronomical distances

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We report what we believe is the weakest interaction between solitons ever observed. Our experiment involves temporal optical cavity solitons recirculating in a coherently driven passive optical-fibre ring resonator. We observe pairs of solitons interacting over a range as large as 8,000 times their width. In the most extreme case, their temporal separation changes as slowly as a fraction of an attosecond per roundtrip of the 100-m-long resonator, or equivalently 1/10,000 of the wavelength of the soliton carrier wave per characteristic dispersive length. The interactions are so weak that, at the speed of light, an effective propagation distance of the order of an astronomical unit can be required to reveal the full dynamical evolution. The interaction is mediated by transverse acoustic waves generated in the optical fibre by the propagating solitons through electrostriction.

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Figure 1: Experimental set-up.
Figure 2: Cavity soliton characteristics.
Figure 3: First example of long-range interactions of a pair of cavity solitons.
Figure 4: Acoustic response.
Figure 5: Interactions of two cavity solitons mediated by the first acoustic echo.


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This work was supported by the Marsden Fund Council (government funding), administered by the Royal Society of New Zealand. The driving laser was funded from the Faculty Research Development Fund of the Faculty of Science of the University of Auckland. J.K.J. also acknowledges the support of a University of Auckland Doctoral Scholarship.

Author information

J.K.J. performed the experiments. M.E. identified the physical origin of the interactions, incorporated the acoustic response into the mean field model, wrote a first draft of the paper, and performed the split-step Fourier simulations. Overall, J.K.J. and M.E. contributed equally to this work. S.G.M. supervised the experimental work. S.C. programmed the Newton solver and performed the related computations, wrote the final version of the paper, and supervised the overall project.

Correspondence to Jae K. Jang or Stéphane Coen.

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Jang, J., Erkintalo, M., Murdoch, S. et al. Ultraweak long-range interactions of solitons observed over astronomical distances. Nature Photon 7, 657–663 (2013) doi:10.1038/nphoton.2013.157

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