Taming the snake instabilities in a polariton superfluid

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The dark solitons observed in a large variety of nonlinear media are unstable against the modulational (snake) instabilities and can break in vortex streets. This behavior has been investigated in nonlinear optical crystals and ultra-cold atomic gases. However, a deep characterization of this phenomenon is still missing. In a resonantly pumped two-dimensional polariton superfluid, we use an all-optical imprinting technique together with the bistability of the polariton system to create dark solitons in confined channels. Due to the snake instabilities, the solitons are unstable and break into arrays of vortex streets whose dynamical evolution is frozen by the pump-induced confining potential, allowing their direct observation in our system. A deep quantitative study shows that the vortex street period is proportional to the quantum fluid healing length, in agreement with the theoretical predictions. Finally, the full control achieved on the soliton patterns is exploited to give proof of principle of an efficient, ultra-fast, analog, all-optical maze solving machine in this photonic platform.