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Dynamics of soliton crystals in optical microresonators


Dissipative Kerr solitons in optical microresonators combine nonlinear optical physics with photonic-integrated technologies. They are promising for a number of applications ranging from optical coherent communications to astrophysical spectrometer calibration, and are also of fundamental interest to the physical sciences. Dissipative Kerr solitons can form a variety of stable states, including breathers and multiple-soliton formations. Among these states, soliton crystals stand out: temporally ordered ensembles of soliton pulses, which are regularly arranged by a modulation of the continuous-wave intracavity driving field. To date, however, the dynamics of soliton crystals and their defect-free generation remain unexplored. Here, we show that the chaotic operating regimes of driven optical microresonators significantly impact the dynamics of soliton crystals. We realize deterministic generation of perfect soliton crystal states, which correspond to a stable, defect-free lattice of intracavity optical pulses. We reveal a critical pump power, below which the stochastic process of soliton excitation abruptly becomes deterministic, which enables faultless, device-independent access to perfect soliton crystals. We also demonstrate the switching of these states and its relation to the regime of transient chaos. Finally, we report on other dynamical phenomena observed in soliton crystals including the formation of breathers, transitions between perfect soliton crystals, their melting and recrystallization.

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Fig. 1: PSCs in Si3N4 microresonators.
Fig. 2: Universal approach to the excitation of PSC states.
Fig. 3: Controllable translations and switching of PSC states.
Fig. 4: Diverse dynamics of PSC states.

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The data used to produce the plots within this paper are available at All other data used in this study are available from the corresponding authors on reasonable request.

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We gratefully acknowledge fruitful discussions with E. Lucas and M. Anderson. This publication was supported by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, Air Force Material Command, USAF under award no. FA9550-15-1-0099 and by funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Marie Sklodowska-Curie IF grant agreement no. 753749 (SOLISYNTH). This publication was supported by contract D18AC00032 (DRINQS) from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Defense Sciences Office. M.K. acknowledges the support from the European Space Technology Centre with ESA contract no. 4000116145/16/NL/MH/GM. Si3N4 samples were fabricated and grown in the Center of MicroNanoTechnology (CMi) at EPFL.

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M.K. developed the idea, designed and performed experiments and simulations, and processed the data. M.H.P.P. fabricated samples with the assistance of J.L. M.K. wrote the manuscript with input from T.J.K., H.G. and W.W. T.J.K. supervised the project.

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Correspondence to Tobias J. Kippenberg.

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Karpov, M., Pfeiffer, M.H.P., Guo, H. et al. Dynamics of soliton crystals in optical microresonators. Nat. Phys. 15, 1071–1077 (2019).

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