Abstract

We construct exact solutions to the paraxial wave equation in free space characterized by stable caustics. First, we show that any solution of the paraxial wave equation can be written as the superposition of plane waves determined by both the Hamilton–Jacobi and Laplace equations in free space. Then using the five elementary stable catastrophes, we construct solutions of the Hamilton–Jacobi and Laplace equations, and the corresponding exact solutions of the paraxial wave equation. Therefore, the evolution of the intensity patterns is governed by the paraxial wave equation and that of the corresponding caustic by the Hamilton–Jacobi equation.

© 2019 Optical Society of America

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