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Bicentenary of Augustin Fresnel’s work

When light encounters an obstacle in its path, it can behave in a way that is incompatible with the simple geometric laws of reflection and refraction. Augustin Fresnel’s theory of light diffraction was a turning point in the fine understanding of the paradoxical behavior of light waves. In 1819, his fundamental thesis was awarded the Grand Prix des sciences mathématiques launched by the Académie des Sciences. His work did not immediately reach consensus and gave rise to bitter debates, particularly between Siméon Poisson, who was not in favor of Fresnel’s vision, and François Arago, a physicist but also the future French Prime Minister. The unintuitive observation of a bright spot in the shadow of an opaque circular object allowed a definitive decision to be made in favor of the ideas put forward by Fresnel. This task has remained in history as the Fresnel or Arago task.

However, the diffraction that affects the spatial behavior of the light wave has an exact temporal equivalent: dispersion. Thus, when a light wave encounters a temporal obstacle, it will exhibit a behavior similar to diffraction. We have been able to take advantage of this time-space duality in several experiments carried out in optical fibers to synthesize time gratings [1] or to reinterpret interference phenomena in the time domain, such as those obtained by Fresnel or Félix Billet, former dean of the Faculty of Science in Dijon[2].

As part of the bicentenary of Fresnel’s work, a collaborative project between the Institut Fresnel and the Carnot Interdisciplinary Institute of Burgundy enabled us to recreate, still using optical fibers, the time analogue of Arago’s task. By exploiting all the possibilities of fine temporal characterization of the PICASSO platform of the CARNOT Interdisciplinary Laboratory of Burgundy, we were able to highlight the emergence of a luminous peak where initially there was only darkness [3]. We have also highlighted the influence of light power on these light structures.

Contact :
- Hervé RIGNEAULT, herve.rigneault@fresnel.fr
- Pr. Christophe FINOT, christophe.finot@u-bourgogne.fr

More Information :
- [1] - C. Finot, H. Rigneault, Experimental observation of temporal dispersion gratings in fiber optics, Journal of the Optical Society of America B, 2017, 34 p 1511
- [2] F. Chaussard, H. Rigneault, C. Finot, Two-wave interferences space-time duality: Young slits, Fresnel biprism and Billet bilens, Optics Communications, 2017, 397, 31.
- [3] C. Finot, H. Rigneault, Arago spot formation in the time domain, Journal of Optics 21, 105504 (2019).