Optical Bistability Experiments and Mean Field Theories

  • W. J. Sandle
  • R. J. Ballagh
  • A. Gallagher


We have performed experiments in absorptive and dispersive optical bistability based upon saturation of the D1 line of atomic sodium in a tight-focused spherical-mirror Fabry-Perot cavity The conditions of large homogeneous broadening (due to high optical power and buffer gas broadening) allow us to interpret the experiments in terms of a two-state model for the D1 transition. The experimental results, taken under conditions appropriate to the mean-field limit, do not confirm two-state mean-field theories of optical bistability in plane wave cavities. Inclusion of the transverse (Gaussian) mode structure in a two-state mean-field model leads to a significant reduction in the predicted rate of onset of saturation in the absorptive (as compared to the dispersive) regime. This prediction is supported by experiment. There remains the problem that both absorptive and dispersive threshold powers are, in absolute terms, an order of magnitude larger than expected.


Atomic Sodium Optical BISTABILITY Incident Laser Power Envelope Equation Electronic Angular Momentum 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1981

Authors and Affiliations

  • W. J. Sandle
    • 1
  • R. J. Ballagh
    • 1
  • A. Gallagher
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
    • 5
  1. 1.Physics DepartmentUniversity of OtagoDunedinNew Zealand
  2. 2.Joint Institute for Laboratory AstrophysicsBoulderUSA
  3. 3.National Bureau of StandardsBoulderUSA
  4. 4.University of ColoradoBoulderUSA
  5. 5.Quantum Physics DivisionNational Bureau of StandardsUSA

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