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Applied Physics B

, Volume 72, Issue 1, pp 21–34 | Cite as

Optical pattern formation in alkali metal vapors: Mechanisms, phenomena and use

  • T. Ackemann
  • W. Lange
Invited paper

Abstract.

The phenomena in optical pattern formation are reviewed using a single mirror feedback experiment as an example. The nonlinear medium is sodium metal vapor. We discuss the mechanism responsible for the spontaneous formation of spatial structures and the selection between simple periodic patterns as hexagons and squares. Introducing a polarization changing element in the feedback loop, quasiperiodic patterns with a twelve-fold rotational symmetry are obtained and their properties are studied by filtering methods in Fourier space. Finally, we discuss the formation of localized states as spatial solitons due to a self-induced lensing effect. Their interaction is studied and the formation of clusters provides a link between localized states and extended patterns. Genuine optical features, such as the polarization degrees of freedom, the experimental accessibility of the Fourier space, and the possibility to control the optical susceptibility of atomic vapors by means of an external magnetic field, provide very powerful tools for investigating the principles of pattern formation.

PACS: 42.65.Sf; 42.65.Tg; 47.54.+r 

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • T. Ackemann
    • 1
  • W. Lange
    • 1
  1. 1.Institut für Angewandte Physik, Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster, Corrensstrasse 2/4, 48149 Münster, Germany (Fax: +49-251/83-33513, E-mail: ackeman@uni-muenster.de, w.lange@uni-muenster.de)DE

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