Switching Behavior of Bistable Resonators Filled with Two-Level Atoms
A comprehensive study of the switching dynamics of bistable optical devices is reported. The intracavity medium is modelled as an ensemble of two-level atoms uniformly distributed in a plane parallel Fabry-Perot. By allowing for arbitrary atomic detunings and cavity mistunings, both the absorptive and dispersive contributions to optical bistability are included. Variations in polarization and population over wavelength distances are treated by means of expansions in spatial Fourier series, having as fundamental a half optical wavelength. The Fourier series are truncated after the first harmonic. We mostly concentrate on the dynamics of the turn-off since it is believed to be the limiting factor in the operation of an optical bistable device at high repetition rates. The turn-on of an optical bistable device can be made arbitrarily fast by increasing the intensity of the incident field. We emphasize that switching an optical bistable device on or off from steady state involves going from a certain intracavity distribution of the polarization, inversion, and electric field, to three completely different distributions. All three distributions need to be changed and each of them generally evolves in time at a different rate.
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