APPLIED PHYSICS: Keeping an Eye on the Pulse

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Science  15 Mar 2002:
Vol. 295, Issue 5562, pp. 1975c
DOI: 10.1126/science.295.5562.1975c

Nonlinear effects can occur when intense laser pulses interact with matter and can distort the pulses as they propagate through a medium. However, keeping tabs on such fleeting events is not a trivial task. Fujimoto et al. present a technique with which they can visualize the propagation of intense femtosecond laser pulses propagating through air. They send four probe pulses through the intense pulse, and the resulting interaction causes a shift in the polarization of the probe pulses. By piecing together the polarization changes in the four probe pulses, the authors can create a still-frame picture of the distorting main pulse as it propagates. The distortion of the pulses varies from shot to shot, possibly because of fluctuations in the pulse power or turbulence in the pathway. Visualizing such distortions may help in the characterization of high-power lasers and may lead to a more accurate delivery of the power to the desired location. — ISO

Opt. Lett. 27, 309 (2002).

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