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Competition of pattern forming instabilities due to phase front curvature in an optical system

Huneus, F and Lange, W and Ackemann, T (2006) Competition of pattern forming instabilities due to phase front curvature in an optical system. Physical Review E, 73 (1). -. ISSN 1539-3755

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In this paper we analyze experimentally and theoretically the competition between two pattern forming instabilities in a single mirror feedback scheme with sodium vapor as the nonlinear medium. Two types of structures with different transverse wave numbers are observed experimentally, if the spatial phase modulation of the light field is varied. This phenomenon results from the combination of a nonlinear self-lensing effect on the one hand and of the externally controlled phase front curvature of the light field on the other. A linear stability analysis yields two instabilities whose length scales match quite well the experimental findings. Further analysis reveals the mechanism of length-scale selection in this system and demonstrates the possibly crucial role of phase front curvature in optical pattern formation.