This dissertation investigates excited-state nonlinearities in a series of polymethine dyes for the application of nanosecond optical limiting. Optical limiters are devices that for low intensity light exhibit a high linear transmittance, but for high intensity light strongly attenuate the incident radiation. These devices would serve to protect optical sensors from intense laser radiation by clamping the maximum energy allowed through an optical system below the damage threshold of the sensor. The search is ongoing for optical materials that are both broadband and have high damage thresholds to be effective materials for limiting applications. Polymethine dyes are promising compounds due to a strong and broad excited-state absorption (ESA) band in the visible region. However, the effectiveness of polymethine molecules as applied to optical limiting is hindered by a saturation of the ESA process at high fluences. Experiments and theoretical modeling are performed to determine the root causes of this saturation effect in both the picosecond and nanosecond time regime. The polymethine molecules studied have chromophore lengths from di- to pentacarbocyanine (2 to 5 -CH=CHgroups) with various bridge structures. This allows us to develop relationships between the molecular parameters of the polymethine molecules and overall nonlinear absorption performance. The experiments conducted included femtosecond white light continuum pumpprobe experiments to measure ESA spectra, picosecond two-color polarization-resolved pumpprobe to measure excited-state dynamics and the orientation of transition dipole moments, and picosecond and nanosecond optical limiting and z-scans. From these experiments we are able to develop energy level models that describe the nonlinear absorption processes in polymethines from the picosecond to nanosecond time regime. This work, along with the quantum chemical modeling performed at the Institute of Physics and National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, has resulted in the creation of dyes that have improved photochemical stability with larger nonlinearities. These are useful not only for optical limiting but also for a wide variety of nonlinear optical applications.


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Graduation Date





VanStryland, Eric W.


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


School of Optics









Release Date

May 2004

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)

Included in

Optics Commons