Nonlinear optics and polymer systems are distinct fields that have been studied for decades. These two fields intersect with the observation of nonlinear wave propagation in photoreactive polymer systems. This has led to studies on the nonlinear dynamics of transmitted light in polymer media, particularly for optical self-trapping and optical modulation instability. The irreversibility of polymerization leads to permanent capture of nonlinear optical patterns in the polymer structure, which is a new synthetic route to complex structured soft materials. Over time more intricate polymer systems are employed, whereby nonlinear optical dynamics can couple to nonlinear chemical dynamics, opening opportunities for self-organization. This paper discusses the work to date on nonlinear optical pattern formation processes in polymers. A brief overview of nonlinear optical phenomenon is provided to set the stage for understanding their effects. We review the accomplishments of the field on studying nonlinear waveform propagation in photopolymerizable systems, then discuss our most recent progress in coupling nonlinear optical pattern formation to polymer blends and phase separation. To this end, perspectives on future directions and areas of sustained inquiry are provided. This review highlights the significant opportunity in exploiting nonlinear optical pattern formation in soft matter for the discovery of new light-directed and light-stimulated materials phenomenon, and in turn, soft matter provides a platform by which new nonlinear optical phenomenon may be discovered.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Statistical and Nonlinear Physics
- Mathematical Physics
- Physics and Astronomy(all)
- Applied Mathematics