Abstract

We study both numerically and experimentally the acceleration and propagation dynamics of 2D Airy beams with arbitrary initial angles between their “two wings.” Our results show that the acceleration of these generalized 2D Airy beams strongly depends on the initial angles and cannot be simply described by the vector superposition principle (except for the normal case of a 90° angle). However, as a result of the “Hyperbolic umbilic” catastrophe (a two-layer caustic), the main lobes of these 2D Airy beams still propagate along parabolic trajectories even though they become highly deformed. Under such conditions, the peak intensity (leading energy flow) of the 2D Airy beams cannot be confined along the main lobe, in contrast to the normal 90° case. Instead, it is found that there are two parabolic trajectories describing the beam propagation: one for the main lobe, and the other for the peak intensity. Both trajectories can be readily controlled by varying the initial wing angle. Due to their self-healing property, these beams tend to evolve into the well-known 1D or 2D Airy patterns after a certain propagation distance. The theoretical analysis corroborates our experimental observations, and explains clearly why the acceleration of deformed Airy beams increases with the opening of the initial wing angle.

© 2014 Optical Society of America

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