Physics Colloquium 10th March 2017 delivered by Professor Howard Milchberg, University of Maryland, USA
When an optical pulse propagating through a nonlinear medium exceeds a certain threshold power, it can focus itself and collapse, in theory, to a singularity. In practice, several physical mechanisms mitigate or arrest the catastrophic collapse and the pulse continues propagation as a filamentary structure. This scenario has played out in many nonlinear optics systems over decades: among them are air filamentation, relativistic self-focusing in plasmas, laser-material processing, and nonlinear generation of broadband light. Recently, we showed that self-focusing collapse and collapse arrest is universally accompanied by the generation of robust topological structures: spatio-temporal optical vortices (STOVs). I’ll describe our experiments and simulations leading to this result.