And suddenly, the dam broke, letting the grains of light gush forth… | 10/26/2017 | Staff
k.collazi (Posted by) Level 3
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Physicists from the University of Lille, in collaboration with the University of Ferrara in Italy, have introduced a river into an optical laboratory… They have just observed the rupture of a photon barrier in an optical fibre, a phenomenon directly comparable with the rupture of a dam placed on the bed of a river.

We and our colleagues have taken advantage of the analogy between the propagation of waves in rivers and the propagation of light pulses in optical fibres to study in detail the formation of the unfurling wave that immediately follows the break of a dam on a river. And this, comfortably installed in our optical laboratory without risk.

Drops - Water - Fibre

Drops of water in an optical fibre?

It is more than an analogy: under certain conditions, the equations governing the propagation of these waves are strictly identical for each of these media. It is thus surprising that the behaviour of these two physical systems, a priori completely different, is identical. More precisely, we have shown that the tiny drops of water trapped behind the dam behave like grains of light – the photons – of a laser beam when they propagate in an optical fibre. We point out that this analogy had been used more than ten years ago to study the formation of rogue waves.

Situation - Dam - Bed - River - Nothing

The situation we have studied is completely different. It is a dam placed on the bed of a river that breaks suddenly (nothing to do with a rogue wave). In order to mimic the rupture of a dam in an optical fibre, French and Italian physicists injected into a fibre a laser beam whose variations in intensity versus time corresponds to the difference in water levels located upstream and downstream of the dam.

Breaking of a dam based on numerical simulations on a river/in an optical fibre.

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