Nonlinear optics; nonlinear optical spectroscopy; nonlinear optical materials; kerr effect; ultrafast nonlinear optics; multiphoton processes; semiconductor nonlinear optics; raman effect; coherent transients


This dissertation investigates two long standing issues in nonlinear optics: complete characterization of the ultrafast dynamics of simple molecules, and the potential of a two-photon laser using a bulk semiconductor gain medium. Within the Born-Oppenheimer approximation, nonlinear refraction in molecular liquids and gases can arise from both bound-electronic and nuclear origins. Knowledge of the magnitudes, temporal dynamics, polarization and spectral dependences of each of these mechanisms is important for many applications including filamentation, white-light continuum generation, all-optical switching, and nonlinear spectroscopy. In this work the nonlinear dynamics of molecules are investigated in both liquid and gas phase with the recently developed beam deflection technique which measures nonlinear refraction directly in the time domain. Thanks to the utility of the beam deflection technique we are able to completely determine the third-order response function of one of the most important molecular liquids in nonlinear optics, carbon disulfide. This allows the prediction of essentially any nonlinear refraction or two-photon absorption experiment on CS2. Measurements conducted on air (N2 and O2) and gaseous CS2 reveal coherent rotational revivals in the degree of alignment of the ensemble at a period that depends on its moment of inertia. This allows measurement of the rotational and centrifugal distortion constants of the isolated molecules. Additionally, the rotational contribution to the beam deflection measurement can be eliminated thanks to the particular polarization dependence of the mechanism. At a specific polarization, the dominant remaining contribution is due to the bound-electrons. Thus both the bound-electronic nonlinear refractive index of air, and second hyperpolarizability of isolated CS2 molecules, are measured directly. The later agrees well with liquid CS2 measurements, where local field effects are significant. The second major portion of this dissertation addresses the possibility of using bulk semiconductors as a two-photon gain medium. A two-photon laser has been a goal of nonlinear optics since shortly after the original laser*s development. In this case, two-photons are emitted from a single electronic transition rather than only one. This processes is known as two-photon gain (2PG). Semiconductors have large two-photon absorption coefficients, which are enhanced by ~2 orders of magnitude when using photons of very different energies, e.g., ћωa≈10ћωb. This enhancement should translate into large 2PG coefficients as well, given the inverse relationship between absorption and gain. Here, we experimentally demonstrate both degenerate and nondegenerate 2PG in optically excited bulk GaAs via pump-probe experiments. This constitutes, to my knowledge, the first report of nondegenerate two-photon gain. Competition between 2PG and competing processes, namely intervalence band and nondegenerate three-photon absorption (ND-3PA), in both cases are theoretically analyzed. Experimental measurements of ND-3PA agree with this analysis and show that it is enhanced much more than ND-2PG. It is found for both degenerate and nondegenerate photon pairs that the losses dominate the two-photon gain, preventing the possibility of a two-photon semiconductor laser.


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Graduation Date





Vanstryland, Eric


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Optics and Photonics


Optics and Photonics

Degree Program

Optics and Photonics








Release Date

August 2015

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)


Dissertations, Academic -- Optics and Photonics; Optics and Photonics -- Dissertations, Academic