Solitons are localized waves formed by a balance of focusing and defocusing effects. These nonlinear waves exist in diverse forms of matter yet exhibit similar properties including stability, periodic recurrence and particle-like trajectories. One important property is soliton fission, a process by which an energetic higher-order soliton breaks apart due to dispersive or nonlinear perturbations. Here we demonstrate through both experiment and theory that nonlinear photocarrier generation can induce soliton fission. Using near-field measurements, we directly observe the nonlinear spatial and temporal evolution of optical pulses in situ in a nanophotonic semiconductor waveguide. We develop an analytic formalism describing the free-carrier dispersion (FCD) perturbation and show the experiment exceeds the minimum threshold by an order of magnitude. We confirm these observations with a numerical nonlinear Schro¨dinger equation model. These results provide a fundamental explanation and physical scaling of optical pulse evolution in free-carrier media and could enable improved supercontinuum sources in gas based and integrated semiconductor waveguides.

Nature Commun.

Husko, C., Wulf, M., Lefrancois, S., Combrie, S., Lehoucq, G., De Rossi, A., … Kuipers, K. (2016). Free-carrier induced soliton fission unveiled by in-situ measurements in nanophotonic. Nature Commun., 7(Article number: 11332), 1–7. doi:10.1038/ncomms11332