The institute
FEMTO's news

You are here

Chaos and rogue waves in a supercontinuum laser

In collaboration with the Universities of Tampere, Aston and ICB laboratory, FEMTO-ST researchers have made significant headway in the ongoing effort to understand the ultrafast chaotic nature of lasers, elucidating for the first time their noise-like pulse operation.

Results appeared in Nature Communications, Sept. 22, 2021.

Lasers that emit stable ultrafast femtosecond pulses of light are widely used in technology and industry, and have also been central to fundamental Nobel Prize-winning research.  But in addition to such highly stable operation, such lasers can also be configured to produce highly unstable and irregular output, and in this case their study yields new insights into the nature of chaos, the properties of turbulence, and the emergence of giant extreme rogue waves. However, although such laser instabilities have been known for decades, their experimental study is challenging, and their origins are poorly understood.

Research published in Nature Communications has now reported a major advance in our understanding of the chaotic operation of lasers. In particular, a special class of optical fibre laser has been built to operate only in a highly chaotic regime, and this has allowed advanced experimental techniques to be used to comprehensively measure its instability characteristics. The measurements used state of the art real time methods to build a detailed picture of the laser fluctuations on multiple timescales: from random pulses with duration shorter than a picosecond (a trillionth of second) to instabilities evolving over milliseconds in the laboratory. The experiments have been complemented by a new numerical model which reveals the central role played by incoherent supercontinuum generation dynamics, a highly nonlinear process whereby an initial seed with narrow spectrum experiences massive broadening and leads to the generation of new wavelengths. The model agrees quantitatively with experiment over an optical bandwidth as broad as 1000 nm and a three-order of magnitude dynamic range, representing one of the most remarkable tests of nonlinear laser modelling ever reported.

 These findings have also shown that the supercontinuum laser generates extreme rogue wave pulses and turbulent characteristics as a consequence of unstable soliton dynamics in the cavity.  The results have answered the physical question relating to the mechanisms driving the spectral broadening and instability in such lasers, and may point to approaches to generate even broader spectral bandwidths for applications such as incoherent imaging. Possible interdisciplinary applications may include attempting to create a similarly incoherent resonator for other classes of nonlinear wave such as in hydrodynamics.

The research was performed as part of a collaboration between the Institut FEMTO-ST and the ICB Laboratory in France (CNRS and the University of Bourgogne-Franche-Comté), as well as international partners from Tampere University (Finland) and Aston University (United Kingdom).


  1. Meng et al. Intracavity incoherent supercontinuum dynamics and rogue waves in a broadband dissipative soliton laser. Nature Communications 12 (2021). DOI : 10.1038/s41467-021-25861-4

Contact : John Dudley

« Typical chaotic pulse emission from the supercontinuum fiber laser"

  • Laurent LARGER named Fellow 2021 of OSA

    Full professor of Physics/Optics at the University of Franche-Comté and researcher at FEMTO-ST institute, Laurent Larger is rewarded for his pioneering work on nonlinear dynamics in optoelectronics and on the development of new architectures for photonic artificial intelligence.

    Read more
  • CNRS "Proof by Image" competition

     Discover the selection of the 20 images selected by the CNRS, one of which is presented by FEMTO-ST, and vote for the "audience award" photo.

    Read more
  • Imaging quantum interference of entangled photon pairs of extremely high dimensionality

    Researchers from the Optics Department have developed an imaging device allowing the spatial and temporal resolution of the phenomenon of quantum interference between pairs of entangled photons of extremely high dimensionality.

    Read more
  • Fei GAO Receives IEEE J.D. Irwin Early Career Award

    As a member of the SHARPAC team and Deputy Director of FEMTO-ST, Fei Gao has been recognized by the IEEE IES Society for his outstanding work in improving the reliability of hydrogen electric powertrains.

    Read more
  • Daniel HISSEL, winner of the CNRS 2020 Innovation Medal

    Full professor at the University of Franche-Comté, researcher at FEMTO-ST Institute and co-founder of a start-up on efficient hydrogen fuel cells, Daniel HISSEL is one of the four national winners of the CNRS 2020 Innovation Medal.

    Read more
  • A new source of infrared light thanks to fibre optic cascades

    Scientists from  FEMTO-ST Institute and McGill University (Montreal, Canada) have designed and developed in collaboration with three French companies a light source covering the entire mid-infrared wavelength range: from 2 to 10 µm.

    Read more
  • Topological crystals to guide waves on the water surface

    Topological crystals have the property of being conductive on their surface, but insulating in their volume which allows very efficient wave guidance by engineering the structure of these materials, generally arranged in a hexagonal symmetry, inspired by the graphene.

    Read more
  • An innovative solution to detect pollutants in the subsoil

    Researchers from FEMTO-STinstitute and the company TOTAL SA have succeeded in detecting organic pollutants with methods that did not require sampling and have been able to monitor the evolution of the pollution of the subsoil over periods ranging up to several years.

    Read more
  • FEMTO-ST is closed

    Within the framework of Coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic and  following the measures announced by the President of the French Republic,  all the premises of our laboratory in Besançon, Belfort and Montbéliard cities are closed to the public from this Tuesday March 17.

    Read more
  • I-PhD Innovation Competition: 2 winners from FEMTO-ST

    Maya Geagea (ANIO-PAC project: micro fuel cells), and Gaël Matten (VIBISCUS project: noise reduction system), special jury prize, are winners of the 2019 innovation awards.

    Read more