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Published September 15, 2006 | public
Journal Article Open

Holographic capture of femtosecond pulse propagation


We have implemented a holographic system to study the propagation of femtosecond laser pulses with high temporal (150 fs) and spatial resolutions (4 µm). The phase information in the holograms allows us to reconstruct both positive and negative index changes due to the Kerr nonlinearity (positive) and plasma formation (negative), and to reconstruct three-dimensional structure. Dramatic differences were observed in the interaction of focused femtosecond pulses with air, water, and carbon disulfide. The air becomes ionized in the focal region, while in water long plasma filaments appear before the light reaches a tight focus. In contrast, in carbon disulfide the optical beam breaks up into multiple filaments but no plasma is measured. We explain these different propagation regimes in terms of the different nonlinear material properties.

Additional Information

©2006 American Institute of Physics (Received 6 March 2006; accepted 8 July 2006; published online 22 September 2006) We would like to thank Zhiwen Liu and Theodor W. Hänsch for helpful discussions. This research was supported by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency Center for Optofluidic Integration. Funding for one of us (M.C.) was provided through the Center for the Physics of Information as part of the Caltech Information Science and Technology initiative.


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