Collapsing Light Really Shines

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Science  04 Jul 2003:
Vol. 301, Issue 5629, pp. 54-55
DOI: 10.1126/science.1083629

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Nonlinear effects can lead to "self-focusing" collapse when the power in a laser beam exceeds a critical power. This process imposes an upper limit on the power that can be transmitted through a medium. For ultrashort laser pulses, the collapse dynamics is highly complex and under certain conditions can prove useful, as Gaeta explains in his Perspective. The resulting dynamical behavior can lead to the emission of a broad spectrum of radiation and to the spatial confinement of the laser beam for distances far beyond those allowed by linear diffraction. A collaboration of research scientists has developed the Teramobile (see also the review by Kasparian et al.), which exploits these effects for the remote sensing of chemical species and aerosols in the lower atmosphere.