We study the self-action of light in a water suspension of absorbing subwavelength particles. Due to efficient accumulation of the light energy, this medium shows distinct non-linear properties even at moderate radiation power. In particular, by means of interference of two obliquely incident beams, it is possible to create controllable phase and amplitude gratings whose contrast, spatial and temporal parameters depend on the beams’ coherence and power as well as the interference geometry. The grating characteristics are investigated via the beams’ self-diffraction. The main mechanism of the grating formation is shown to be thermal, which leads to the phase grating; a weak amplitude grating also emerges due to the particles’ displacements caused by the light-induced gradient and photophoretic forces. These forces, together with the Brownian motion of the particles, are responsible for the grating dynamics and degradation. The results and approaches can be used for investigation of the thermal relaxation and kinetic processes in liquid suspensions.
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