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Optical pulses and regular optical pulse trains can be characterized in various respects:
- The pulse repetition rate is usually measured with a fast photodiode and an electronic spectrum analyzer.
- The pulse duration can be measured with various methods, e.g. with an autocorrelator or a streak camera. Optical sampling techniques can be used when a shorter reference pulse is available.
- The pulse energy may be measured directly or (for pulse trains) calculated from the average power and repetition rate.
- The peak power may be directly measured with a photodiode or calculated from pulse energy, pulse duration and pulse shape.
- The optical center frequency and spectral shape can be obtained with an optical spectrum analyzer.
- The carrier–envelope offset frequency is of special interest in optical metrology, and may be measured with an f−2f interferometer.
- The chirp can be measured e.g. with frequency-resolved optical gating.
- The timing jitter of a pulse train can be measured with various methods.
- The coherence (e.g. of subsequent pulses) can be characterized e.g. with an interferometer.
There are methods of complete pulse characterization , which reveal the electric field versus time or the complex spectrum (including spectral shape and spectral phase) of ultrashort pulses. The most prominent techniques for this purpose are FROG (frequency-resolved optical gating ) and SPIDER (spectral interferometry for direct electric-field reconstruction , → spectral interferometry). The results can be visualized in various ways, e.g. with graphs of time- or frequency-dependent functions, or with spectrograms.
Note that apart from the temporal aspect, there is also the spatial aspect . Both aspects are often approximately separated in the sense that the whole spatio-temporal profile of the electric field of a pulse can be specified as the product of two functions, one depending only on time and the other only on the spatial position. However, a significant coupling of temporal and spatial properties can occur in various situations. For example, pulses from Kerr lens mode-locked lasers often exhibit a time-dependent beam radius, which makes the complete characterization (and modeling) very challenging. Another spatio-temporal aspect is pulse front tilt, which is related to angular dispersion and can, e.g., result from a misaligned pulse compressor.
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See also: pulses, spectral phase, carrier–envelope offset, autocorrelators, frequency-resolved optical gating, spectral interferometry, streak cameras
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