Abstract

We study theoretically and experimentally the switching dynamics of a nonlinear optical bistable system that exhibits modulational instability in the vicinity of its lower limit point. We show that modulational instability induces premature upswitching and, in this way, truncates the bistable cycle. The role of the modulation instability is identified experimentally through the observation of the transient pattern formation that precedes upswitching. Our experiment illustrates the importance of cooperative behavior in practical distributed bistable systems.

© 1999 Optical Society of America

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