New Publication: Real-time measurements of spontaneous breathers and rogue wave events in optical fibre modulation instability

Prof Frederic Dias' paper published in Nature on December 19 2016

Modulation instability is a fundamental process of nonlinear science, leading to the unstable breakup of a constant amplitude solution of a physical system. There has been particular interest in studying modulation instability in the cubic nonlinear Schrödinger equation, a generic model for a host of nonlinear systems including superfluids, fibre optics, plasmas and Bose–Einstein condensates. Modulation instability is also a significant area of study in the context of understanding the emergence of high amplitude events that satisfy rogue wave statistical criteria. Here, exploiting advances in ultrafast optical metrology, we perform real-time measurements in an optical fibre system of the unstable breakup of a continuous wave field, simultaneously characterizing emergent modulation instability breather pulses and their associated statistics. Our results allow quantitative comparison between experiment, modelling and theory, and are expected to open new perspectives on studies of instability dynamics in physics.

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