The dispersion experienced by a signal in a slow light system leads to a significant pulse broadening and sets a limit to the maximum delay actually achievable by the system. To overcome this limitation, a substantial research effort is currently being carried out, and successful strategies to reduce distortion in linear slow light systems have already been demonstrated. Recent theoretical and experimental works have even claimed the achievement of zero-broadening of pulses in these systems. In this work we obtain some physical limits to broadening compensation in linear slow light systems based on simple Fourier analysis. We show that gain and dispersion broadening can never compensate in such a system. Additionally, it is simply proven that all the linear slow light systems that introduce a low-pass filtering of the signal (a reduction in the signal root-mean-square spectral width), will always cause pulse broadening. These demonstrations are done using a rigorous shape-independent definition of pulse width (the root-mean-square temporal width) and arguments borrowed from time-frequency analysis.
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