Solitonic dispersive hydrodynamics: theory and observation

Michelle D. Maiden, Dalton V. Anderson, Nevil A. Franco, Gennady El, Mark A. Hoefer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


Ubiquitous nonlinear waves in dispersive media include localized solitons and extended hydrodynamic states such as dispersive shock waves. Despite their physical prominence and the development of thorough theoretical and experimental investigations of each separately, experiments and a unified theory of solitons and dispersive hydrodynamics are lacking. Here, a general soliton-mean field theory is introduced and used to describe the propagation of solitons in macroscopic hydrodynamic flows. Two universal adiabatic invariants of motion are identified that predict trapping or transmission of solitons by hydrodynamic states. The result of solitons incident upon smooth expansion waves or compressive, rapidly oscillating dispersive shock waves is the same, an effect termed hydrodynamic reciprocity. Experiments on viscous fluid conduits quantitatively confirm the soliton-mean field theory with broader implications for nonlinear optics, superfluids, geophysical fluids, and other dispersive hydrodynamic media.
Original languageEnglish
Article number144101
JournalPhysical Review Letters
Issue number14
Publication statusPublished - 6 Apr 2018


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