The study of wave interactions in periodic structures has a rich history that dates from the early days of solid-state physics through the development of coupled-wave theory. Nonlinear optics, including the physics of optical solitons, is a newer discipline that is steadily finding applications in laser engineering, communications, medicine, and many other fields. The combined study, that of nonlinear optical interactions in periodic structures, has been a significant area of study during the 1980's and 1990's and is the subject of this focus issue of Optics Express. The papers included in this issue represent invited submissions from research groups known to be active in theoretical and experimental studies of the nonlinear optics of periodic structures. Many of the papers in this special issue were originally presented as invited papers at the Workshop on Novel Solitons and Nonlinear Periodic Structures held in Victoria, Canada, in April 1998.

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