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Studies of Nonlinear Femtosecond Pulse Propagation in Bulk Materials

TitleStudies of Nonlinear Femtosecond Pulse Propagation in Bulk Materials
Publication TypeThesis
Year of Publication1999
AuthorsEaton, HK

Femtosecond pulse lasers are finding widespread application in a variety of fields including medical research, optical switching and communications, plasma formation, high harmonic generation, and wavepacket formation and control. As the number of applications for femtosecond pulses increases, so does the need to fully understand the linear and nonlinear processes involved in propagating these pulses through materials under various conditions. Recent advances in pulse measurement techniques, such as frequency-resolved optical gating (FROG), allow measurement of the full electric field of the pulse and have made detailed investigations of short-pulse propagation effects feasible.

In this thesis, I present detailed experimental studies of my work involving nonlinear propagation of femtosecond pulses in bulk media. Studies of plane-wave propagation in fused silica extend the SHG form of FROG from a simple pulse diagnostic to a useful method of interrogating the nonlinear response of a material. Studies of nonlinear propagation are also performed in a regime where temporal pulse splitting occurs. Experimental results are compared with a three-dimensional nonlinear Schrödinger equation. This comparison fuels the development of a more complete model for pulse splitting.

Experiments are also performed at peak input powers above those at which pulse splitting is observed. At these higher intensities, a broadband continuum is generated. This work presents a detailed study of continuum behavior and power loss as well as the first near-field spatial-spectral measurements of the generated continuum light. Nonlinear plane-wave propagation of short pulses in liquids is also investigated, and a non-instantaneous nonlinearity with a surprisingly short response time of 10 fs is observed in methanol. Experiments in water confirm that this effect in methanol is indeed real. Possible explanations for the observed effect are discussed and several are experimentally rejected.

This thesis applies FROG as a powerful tool for science and not just a useful pulse diagnostic technique. Studies of three-dimensional propagation provide an in-depth understanding of the processes involved in femtosecond pulse splitting. In addition, the experimental investigations of continuum generation and pulse propagation in liquids provide new insights into the possible processes involved and should provide a useful comparison for developing theories.