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Optical rogue waves: The storm in a test tube

Date:
December 20, 2013
Source:
Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V. (FVB)
Summary:
Random processes in nature often underlie a so-called normal distribution that enables reliable estimation for the appearance of extreme statistical events. Meteorological systems are an exception to this rule, with extreme events appearing at a much higher rate than could be predicted from long-term observation at much lower magnitude. One such example is the appearance of unexpectedly strong storms, yet another are rare reports of waves of extreme height in the ocean, which are also known as rogue waves or monster waves.

Subsequent camera snapshots of a measured rogue wave event. Intensity is visualized as wave height. The incident is isolated both in space and time. The wave appears within a split second without a warning and also disappears rapidly.
Credit: Image courtesy of Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V. (FVB)

Random processes in nature often underlie a so-called normal distribution that enables reliable estimation for the appearance of extreme statistical events. Meteorological systems are an exception to this rule, with extreme events appearing at a much higher rate than could be predicted from long-term observation at much lower magnitude. One such example is the appearance of unexpectedly strong storms, yet another are rare reports of waves of extreme height in the ocean, which are also known as rogue waves or monster waves.

About 5 years ago, rogue behavior was first reported for propagation of light pulses through an optical fiber, i.e., a completely different physical system. Given that observation of rogue waves requires comparatively little effort, this work has initiated a new research direction on optical rogue waves. In a publication in Physical Review Letters, Birkholz et al. now demonstrate the appearance of rogue waves in a new optical system. Other than in previous publications, optical rogue waves in this system are clearly ruled by atmospheric turbulence in a gas cell, effectively enabling the observation of a storm in a test tube.

This microscopic meteorological phenomenon is based on mergers between individual light strings (so-called filaments) in the gas cell. The merger events give rise to the observation of short light flashes, which can actually be observed by the naked eye. Careful statistical evaluation of the measured data indicates that these optical monster waves are much more extreme than their ocean equivalents. While, in the ocean, a wave already qualifies as rogue if it exceeds the significant wave height by a factor two, we find optical waves that exceed this threshold by more of a factor ten -- a truly rough optical sea.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V. (FVB). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Simon Birkholz, Erik Nibbering, Carsten Brιe, Stefan Skupin, Ayhan Demircan, Goλry Genty, Gόnter Steinmeyer. Spatiotemporal Rogue Events in Optical Multiple Filamentation. Physical Review Letters, 2013; 111 (24) DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.111.243903

Cite This Page:

Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V. (FVB). "Optical rogue waves: The storm in a test tube." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 December 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131220113648.htm>.
Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V. (FVB). (2013, December 20). Optical rogue waves: The storm in a test tube. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131220113648.htm
Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V. (FVB). "Optical rogue waves: The storm in a test tube." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131220113648.htm (accessed July 25, 2014).

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