Remote sensing of the atmosphere using ultrashort laser pulses
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Theoretical and experimental studies were performed on the propagation of ultrashort optical terawatt pulses through the atmosphere. Propagation simulations of intense sub-picosecond pulses show that non-linear processes, such as white light generation, can be initiated at a chosen distance by selecting an appropriate group velocity dispersion. With this technique, a white light continuum was generated in the atmosphere whose spectral distribution was characterised in the visible and near infra-red. Applications of this novel light source for atmospheric remote sensing were investigated, combining lidar and time-resolved broadband absorption spectroscopy techniques. Measurements were performed on the oxygen molecule and water vapour. A comparison between the experimental results and the tabulated spectroscopic data led to an excellent correlation with measurements made on water vapour whereas observations on the oxygen showed discrepancy. This study demonstrates that the remote generation of a white light source represents a new way to access the range-resolved multi-trace gas analysis in the atmosphere.
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