Observation of photon droplets and their dynamics

Wilson, Kali E. and Westerberg, Niclas and Valiente, Manuel and Duncan, Callum W. and Wright, Ewan M. and Öhberg, Patrik and Faccio, Daniele (2018) Observation of photon droplets and their dynamics. Physical Review Letters, 121 (13). 133903. ISSN 1079-7114 (https://doi.org/10.1103/PhysRevLett.121.133903)

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We present experimental evidence of photon droplets in an attractive (focusing) nonlocal nonlinear medium. Photon droplets are self-bound, finite-sized states of light that are robust to size and shape perturbations due to a balance of competing attractive and repulsive forces. It has recently been shown theoretically, via a multipole expansion of the nonlocal nonlinearity, that the self-bound state arises due to competition between the s-wave and d-wave nonlinear terms, together with diffraction. The theoretical photon droplet framework encompasses both a solitonlike stationary ground state and the nonsolitonlike dynamics that ensue when the system is displaced from equilibrium, i.e., driven into an excited state. We present numerics and experiments supporting the existence of these photon droplet states and measurements of the dynamical evolution of the photon droplet orbital angular momentum.