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Pulse Generation

Definition: the generation of light pulses (flashes)

German: Pulserzeugung

Categories: light pulses, methods

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Short or ultrashort optical pulses can in principle be generated by starting with a continuous light source and using a fast modulator, which lets the light pass only for a short period of time. However, such a method is not efficient, since most of the light will be lost at the modulator, and also the pulse duration is limited by the speed (bandwidth) of the modulator. Pulses with much higher energies and much shorter durations can be generated in pulsed lasers. The most frequently used methods are:

There are other methods, which are less frequently used. Some examples are:

  • A kind of opto-electronic oscillator consists of a gain-switched laser diode, where the optical pulses are fed into a long fiber, then sent to a photodetector, and the photodetector signal is used to electrically control the diode. Although the basic principle of pulse generation is then still gain switching, the optical delay line determines the pulse repetition rate and serves to achieve a very low timing jitter.
  • For very high pulse repetition rates, a beat signal can be generated by superimposing the outputs e.g. of two single-frequency laser diodes with significantly different optical frequencies, and subsequently “sharpening” the beat signal by four-wave mixing in an optical fiber. In that way, pulse trains with high contrast are obtained at extremely high pulse repetition rates.

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See also: pulses, double pulses, ultrashort pulses, pulsed lasers, nanosecond lasers, picosecond lasers, femtosecond lasers, modes of laser operation, Q switching, mode locking, cavity dumping, regenerative amplifiers, chirped-pulse amplification, gain switching, quasi-continuous-wave operation
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