The Acoustooptic Interaction

  • R. W. Dixon
Conference paper


A short review of the physical concepts which allow optical beam intensity, direction, phase, etc., to be controlled by interaction with an ultrasonic wave is given. This includes brief consideration of the recent elegant additions to the theory of the photoelastic interaction by Nelson and Lax. The distinction between Bragg and Raman-Nath diffraction is made and acoustooptic diffraction in optically anisotropic media is mentioned in order to illustrate the importance of phase matching. The Bragg diffraction regime in which the diffracted optical energy is confined near one angular direction is shown to be of use in optical beam probing experiments. Investigation of such subjects as ultrasonic attenuation, acoustic nonlinear phenomena, acoustic diffraction, acoustoelectric effects, and the photoelastic properties of materials is possible using this technique.

Considerable evolution of acoustically driven devices which perform some optical control function has occurred recently. Part of this evolution has been due to the discovery of better acoustooptic materials, several of which are mentioned. Well understood devices include optical modulators, switches, sequential scanners, and random access deflectors. Consideration of the way in which acoustic waves interact with multiwavelength optical beams has led to the invention of a new class of devices which can act as multiwavelength modulators and tunable optical filters. Intracavity acoustooptic laser modulators (e.g. for creating short optical pulses in conjunction with mode locked lasers or for use as variable duration laser output couplers) have also become important.


Ultrasonic Wave Optical Beam Bragg Diffraction Ultrasonic Attenuation Ultrasonic Beam 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1971

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. W. Dixon
    • 1
  1. 1.Bell Telephone Laboratories, IncorporatedMurray HillUSA

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