Superluminal propagation of light pulses: A result of interference

Li-Gang Wang*, Nian-Hua Liu, Qiang Lin, Shi-Yao Zhu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

43 Citations (Scopus)


The propagation of pulses through dispersive media was investigated by solving Maxwell’s equations without any approximation. We show that the superluminal propagation of pulses through anomalous dispersive media is a result of the interference of different frequency components composed of the pulse. The coherence of the pulse plays an important role for the superluminal propagation. With the decrease of the coherence of the pulse, the propagation changes from superluminal to subluminal. We have shown that the anomalous dispersion (the real part of the susceptibility) not the amplification (the imaginary part of the susceptibility) plays the essential role in the superluminal propagation. Although the superluminality always exists as long as the spectrum of the coherent pulse is within the anomalously dispersive region, both the energy propagation velocity and the frontal velocity never exceed the light speed in the vacuum. The output pulse through the medium is not the original pulse; instead it carries the information of the original pulse and the information of the prepared medium.

Original languageEnglish
Article number066606
Number of pages10
JournalPhysical Review E
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2003

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Statistical and Nonlinear Physics
  • Statistics and Probability
  • Condensed Matter Physics


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