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Passive symmetry breaking of the space-time propagation in cavity dissipative solitons

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posted on 2023-01-12, 14:31 authored by Idan Parshani, Leon Bello, Mallachi-Elia Meller, Avi Pe'er
Dissipative solitons are fundamental wave-pulses that preserve their form in the presence of periodic loss and gain. The canonical realization of dissipative solitons is Kerr-lens mode locking in lasers, which delicately balance nonlinear and linear propagation in both time and space to generate ultrashort optical pulses. This linear-nonlinear balance dictates a unique pulse energy, which cannot be increased (say by elevated pumping), indicating that excess energy is expected to be radiated in the form of dispersive or diffractive waves. Here we show that Kerr-lens mode-locked lasers can overcome this expectation. Specifically, by breaking the spatial symmetry between the forward and backward halves of the round-trip in a linear cavity, the laser can modify the soliton in space to incorporate the excess energy. Increasing the pump power leads therefore to a different soliton solution, rather than to dispersive / diffractive loss. We predict this symmetry breaking by a complete numerical simulation of the spatio-temporal dynamics in the cavity, and confirm it experimentally in a Kerr-lens mode-locked Ti:Sapphire laser with quantitative agreement to the simulation. The simulation opens a window to directly observe the nonlinear space-time dynamics that molds the soliton pulse, and possibly to optimize it.

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