Ultrashort pulses from mode-locked lasers, for example, often have a temporal shape (i.e., shape of the curve showing optical power versus time) which can be approximately described with a Gaussian function:
where τ is the full width at half-maximum (FWHM) pulse duration.
Compared with a sech2-shaped pulse, a Gaussian pulse with the same width at half-maximum has somewhat weaker wings:
The Gaussian pulse shape is typical for pulses from actively mode-locked lasers; it results e.g. from the Haus master equation in simple cases. However, it is also found in various other situations. Generally, the obtained pulse shape can depend on many factors, such as chromatic dispersion and optical nonlinearities in the laser resonator.
Gaussian pulses should not be confused with Gaussian beams; the latter have a Gaussian spatial intensity profile, while Gaussian pulses have a Gaussian temporal profile. Of course, one can also have both at the same time.
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