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The consequences of non-differentiable angular dispersion in optics: Tilted pulse fronts versus space-time wave packets
preprintposted on 2023-01-12, 14:00 authored by Layton A. Hall, Ayman F. Abouraddy
Conventional diffractive and dispersive devices introduce angular dispersion (AD) into pulsed optical fields thus producing so-called 'tilted pulse fronts'. Naturally, it is always assumed that the functional form of the wavelength-dependent propagation angle associated with AD is differentiable with respect to wavelength. Recent developments in the study of space-time wave packets -- pulsed beams in which the spatial and temporal degrees of freedom are inextricably intertwined -- have pointed to the existence of non-differentiable AD: field configurations in which the propagation angle does not possess a derivative at some wavelength. Here we investigate the consequences of introducing non-differentiable AD into a pulsed field and show that it is the crucial ingredient required to realize group velocities that deviate from $c$ (the speed of light in vacuum) along the propagation axis in free space. In contrast, the on-axis phase and group velocities are always equal in conventional scenarios. Furthermore, we show that non-differentiable AD is needed for realizing anomalous or normal group-velocity dispersion along the propagation axis, while simultaneously suppressing all higher-order dispersion terms. These and several other consequences of non-differentiable AD are verified experimentally using a pulsed-beam shaper capable of introducing AD with arbitrary spectral profile. Rather than being an exotic phenomenon, non-differentiable AD is an accessible, robust, and versatile resource for sculpting pulsed optical fields.