Thick-medium model of transverse pattern formation in optically excited cold two-level atoms with a feedback mirror

W.J. Firth, I. Kresic, G. Labeyrie, A Camara, T. Ackemann

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We study a pattern-forming instability in a laser-driven optically thick cloud of cold two-level atoms with a planar feedback mirror. We develop a theoretical model, enabling a full analysis of transverse patterns in a medium with saturable nonlinearity, taking into account diffraction within the medium, and both the transmission and reflection gratings. The focus of the analysis is on the combined treatment of nonlinear propagation in a diffractively and optically thick medium and the boundary condition given by feedback. We demonstrate explicitly how diffraction within the medium breaks the degeneracy of Talbot modes inherent in thin-slice models. We predict the existence of envelope curves bounding all possible pattern-formation thresholds and illustrate their interaction with threshold curves by experimental observation of a sudden transition between length scales as mirror displacement is varied.
Original languageEnglish
Article number053806
Number of pages15
JournalPhysical Review A - Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 3 Nov 2017


  • pattern forming
  • feedback mirror
  • reflection gratings
  • organization of light

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