Origins of spectral broadening of incoherent waves: Catastrophic process of coherence degradation
AbstractWe revisit the mechanisms underlying the process of spectral broadening of incoherent optical waves propagating in nonlinear media on the basis of nonequilibrium thermodynamic considerations. A simple analysis reveals that a prerequisite for the existence of a significant spectral broadening of the waves is that the linear part of the energy (Hamiltonian) has different contributions of opposite signs. It turns out that, at variance with the expected soliton turbulence scenario, an increase of the amount of disorder (incoherence) in the system does not require the generation of a coherent soliton structure. We illustrate the idea by considering the propagation of two wave components in an optical fiber with opposite dispersion coefficients. A wave turbulence approach to the problem reveals that the increase of kinetic energy in one component is offset by the negative reduction in the other component, so that the waves exhibit, as a general rule, virtually unlimited spectral broadening. More precisely, a self-similar solution of the kinetic equations reveals that the spectra of the incoherent waves tend to relax toward a homogeneous distribution in the wake of a front that propagates in frequency space with a decelerating velocity. We discuss this catastrophic process of spectral broadening in the light of different important phenomena, in particular supercontinuum generation, soliton turbulence, wave condensation, and the runaway motion of mechanical systems composed of positive and negative masses.