Real-Time Optical Pulse Characterization Using SPIDER

The recent advances in ultrafast lasers have mandated a change in the techniques used to measure them. It is no longer sufficient to measure merely the spectrum or the auto-correlation of an ultrafast laser pulse; a more complete picture is required, and this involves determining the phase of the time-varying optical field. The ability to rapidly change the shape of the pulse is a key technology for a variety of new applications, from quantum control to nonlinear optics. Complementary to this is the ability to rapidly characterize the field so that it is possible to understand the physical effects of different pulse shapes. Recently, we have reported a powerful new tool for doing just that. The technique is called Spectral Phase Interferometry for Direct Electric-field Reconstruction (SPIDER) and the new implementation provides feedback in real time for either manual or computer-based control of the pulse shape.

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