Determining non-linear optical properties using the Z-scan technique

Neethling, Pieter (2005-03)

Thesis (MSc (Physics))--University of Stellenbosch, 2005.


The extremely high light intensities produced by lasers and the increasing use of lasers highlights the need for measures to prevent damage to materials due to exposure to high intensity laser light. In particular it necessitates the development of systems to protect optical sensors, including the human eye. In this work optical limiters were investigated as a system for protecting sensors. An optical limiter transmits ambient light, but absorbs high intensity light. This makes it ideal for protecting sensors from laser radiation, since it allows the sensor to operate unhindered at design intensities while protecting it from harmful high intensity radiation. There are various mechanisms used for optical limiting, and in this work the nonlinear absorption and the nonlinear index of refraction changes of materials were investigated. A facility was established to measure the nonlinear optical properties of a variety of materials, in order to classify them as possible optical limiters. This entailed creating a so called Zscan setup, which enabled us to measure the nonlinear absorption coefficient and the nonlinear index of refraction of a material. The theory and the design of the setup are discussed and experimental results obtained using this setup are presented. A wide variety of material types were investigated to show the versatility of the experimental setup. These included C60, which was analyzed in solution; ZnO which is a crystal; CdS quantum dots in solution; and poly(dioctyl-fluorene), which is a large polymer molecule, in solution. The materials investigated in this work were chosen based on their known strong nonlinear optical properties. Emphasis was placed on measuring the nonlinear absorption coefficients since it was the dominant optical limiting effect of the materials under investigation. The results obtained displayed the same trends as published results and it shows that the established facility was capable of measuring the nonlinear properties of these samples. The experimental limitations of the setup were determined, and critical experimental parameters were identified for measurements of this nature. Improvements to the experimental facility are suggested to improve the accuracy of future measurements.

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