Phase Transitions in Nonequilibrium Systems: Dye Lasers and Lasers with Saturable Absorbers
Since the pioneering work of Graham and Haken, and of Lamb, Scully and DeGiorgio developing the analogy between lasers near threshold and second-order transitions in systems at thermal equilibrium, nearly a hundred papers have been published which use or expand upon this idea. In 1975, Sargent, Cantrell, and the present author extended this approach to show that lasers with saturable absorbers behaved as mathematical analogs to equilibrium systems with first- order phase transitions, complete with latent heats (or their analogs) and bistability. The latter aspect — bistability — is of course now an important specialty in optics in its own right and has provided renewed attention to these rather simple theories. In the present paper we review the work along these lines since 1975 and suggest some possible new extensions, in particular, to analogs of the Pippard relationship for phase transitions in equilibrium systems.
KeywordsOrder Phase Transition Saturable Absorber Equilibrium System Population Inversion Tricritical Point
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