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Optical Shock Waves in Silica Aerogel

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In a work published recently in Optics Express we experimentally investigated the occurrence of optical dispersive shock waves (DSWs) in silica aerogel (SA). Here we studied the interplay between disorder and nonlinearity; on the other hand the determination of the conditions for the suppressions of the DSWs, is fundamental for the realization of high power nonlinear optical devices based on SA. The convection-free solid-state structure of SA gives peculiar thermal properties, such as very low heat conductivity and high melting point, making this material robust with respect to very high nonlinear regimes, a topic so far unexplored. This is at variance with most the systems presenting thermal nonlinearity, that being dyed soft-matter, exhibit boiling and/or photo-bleaching.

Typical aerogel sample and propagating CW laser