Air can be considered as a nonlinear optical medium for sufficiently high laser intensities. Short pulses of high peak intensity have been seen to create their own waveguide and propagate through the atmosphere while maintaining a diameter of the order of 100 μm over distances far in excess of the Rayleigh range. It is generally believed that the waveguiding results from a balance between self-focusing (Kerr effect) and self-defocusing due to a low desnity electron plasma created by multiphoton ionization of air. This delicate balance is destroyed after a short time because of inverse Bremstrahlung, which leads generally to avalanche ionization. Observation of filaments has therefore been limited to femtosecond pulses. At wavelengths shorter than 306 nm, ionization of oxygen is only a 3 photon process, and therefore the intensity in UV filaments is 20 to 3 orders of magnitude smaller than in the IR. Furthermore, the time required for inverse Bremstrahlung to lead to avalanche ionization is 1000 times longer, i.e. of the order of a nanosecond. As a consequence, it should be possible to channel up to 1 Joule of energy in the UV filaments, as opposed to a few mJ.
To create such high energy, we have developed a compact frequency quadrupled Nd:YAG laser oscillator-amplifier, compressed from 3 ns down to 200 ps by stimulated Brillouin scattering in FC75. The oscillator is seeded by a stabilized semiconductor laser to ensure the narrow band operation required for the stimulated Brillouin scattering. Efficient transfer of power from the beam to the filaments is achieved by focusing the larger beam issued from the Brillouin cell in vacuum, onto a supersonic flow of air serving of window between vacuum and atmosphere.
Under the Office of Naval Research's Organic Mine Countermeasures Future Naval Capabilities (OMCM FNC) program, Lite Cycles, Inc. is developing an innovative and highly compact airborne active sensor system for mine and obstacle detection in very shallow water (VSW), through the surf-zone (SZ) and onto the beach. The system uses an
innovative LCI proprietary integrated scanner, detector, and telescope (ISDT) receiver architecture. The ISD tightly couples all receiver components and LIDAR electronics to achieve the system compaction required for tactical UAVintegration while providing a large aperture. It also includes an advanced compact multifunction laser transmitter; an industry-first high-resolution, compact 3-D camera, a scanning function for wide area search, and temporally
displaced multiple looks on the fly over the ocean surface for clutter reduction. Additionally, the laser will provide time-multiplexed multi-color output to perform day/night multispectral imaging for beach surveillance. New processing algorithms for mine detection in the very challenging surf-zone clutter environment are under development, which offer the potential for significant processing gains in comparison to the legacy approaches. This paper reviews the legacy system approaches, describes the mission challenges, and provides an overview of the ROAR system architecture.
High-resolution three-dimensional flash ladar system technologies are under development that enables remote identification of vehicles and armament hidden by heavy tree canopies. We have developed a sensor architecture and design that employs a 3D flash ladar receiver to address this mission. The receiver captures 128×128×>30 three-dimensional images for each laser pulse fired. The voxel size of the image is 3”×3”×4” at the target location. A novel signal-processing algorithm has been developed that achieves sub-voxel (sub-inch) range precision estimates of target locations within each pixel. Polarization discrimination is implemented to augment the target-to-foliage contrast. When employed, this method improves the range resolution of the system beyond the classical limit (based on pulsewidth and detection bandwidth). Experiments were performed with a 6 ns long transmitter pulsewidth that demonstrate 1-inch range resolution of a tank-like target that is occluded by foliage and a range precision of 0.3” for unoccluded targets.
The multi-conjugate adaptive optics (MCAO) system design for the Gemini-South 8-meter telescope will provide near-diffraction-limited, highly uniform atmospheric turbulence compensation at near-infrared wavelengths over a 2 arc minute diameter field-of-view. The design includes three deformable mirrors optically conjugate to ranges of 0, 4.5, and 9.0 kilometers with 349, 468, and 208 actuators, five 10-Watt-class sodium laser guide stars (LGSs) projected from a laser launch telescope located behind the Gemini secondary mirror, five Shack-Hartmann LGS wavefront sensors of order 16 by 16, and three tip/tilt natural guide star (NGS) wavefront sensors to measure tip/tilt and tilt anisoplanatism wavefront errors. The WFS sampling rate is 800 Hz. This paper provides a brief overview of sample science applications and performance estimates for the Gemini South MCAO system, together with a summary of the performance requirements and/or design status of the principal subsystems. These include the adaptive optics module (AOM), the laser system (LS), the beam transfer optics (BTO) and laser launch telescope (LLT), the real time control (RTC) system, and the aircraft safety system (SALSA).
Lite Cycles has developed a new type of range-gated, LIDAR sensing element based on Raman image amplification in a solid-state optical crystal. Marine Raman Image Amplification (MARIA) is a feasible technology for producing high-resolution imagery in an underwater environment. MARIA is capable of amplifying low-level optical images with gains up to 106 with the addition of only quantum-limited noise. The high gains available from MARIA can compensate for low quantum efficiency detectors. The range-gate of MARIA is controlled by the pulsewidth of the amplifier pump laser and can be made as short as 30 - 100 cm, using pump pulses of 2 - 6.7 nsec FWHM. The use of MARIA in an imaging LIDAR system has been shown to result in higher SNR images throughout a broad range of incident light levels, in contrast to the increasing noise factor occurring with reduced gain in ICCDs. The imaging resolution of MARIA in the marine environment can be superior to images produced by a laser line scan or standard range-gated imaging system. MARIA is also superior in rejecting unwanted sunlight background, further increasing the SNR of images. MARIA has the potential of providing the best overall system resolution and SNR, making it ideal for the identification of mine-like objects, even in bright sunlight conditions.
Several years after the discovery of Raman scattering of light, solid state Raman lasers are beginning to reach the stage of commercial applications. This talk will review the basic concepts of Raman gain with a special emphasis on Raman laser crystals. Examples of spectroscopic properties of important materials are presented. The use of these materials in shared-, coupled,- and external-resonator Raman laser systems is described. Design parameters affecting efficiency, beam quality, and temporal pulse width are discussed. Examples will be presented of the use of these lasers for transmitters in atmospheric lidar, marine imaging lidar, adaptive optics guide-stars, and materials processing applications.
The generation of sodium guide stars through laser excitation imposes very specific requirements on the laser. It has been argued that the most effective sodium guide star laser would operate CW with a mode spacing of less than the 10 MHz Doppler broadening profile of the mesospheric sodium. However, achieving high power in free-space optics with these requirements becomes very difficult because of the limited active gain volume and exceedingly long cavity requirement. The clear solution to these impediments is the development of a fiber raman laser (FRL) to shift the output of a solid state laser to a harmonic of the 589 nm sodium transition. The specific wavelength and bandwidth are selected from the large Raman gain spectrum by application- specific Distributed Bragg Reflectors. The guided-wave nature of the FRL allows for very large interaction volumes, while the long fiber length allows for narrowly-spaced modes which easily fill the sodium D2 continuum. This paper reviews the theory and design of the Fiber Raman Guidestar Laser being developed for Astronomical Adaptive Optical systems.
Generation of sodium guide stars for adaptive optics requires very precise control of the frequency and bandwidth of the laser to maximize the brightness of the generated guide star. The ruggedness, efficiency and ease of use of a solid state system has great potential for improving the reliability and power of the laser guide star over the dye laser system currently used. The dearth of solid state transitions at the precise wavelength required for exciting resonance scattering in sodium drives us toward Raman shifting to downshift a nearby solid-state transition line tuned to work with the Raman-shifting material. The system being developed for the 6.5 meter multiple mirror telescope (MMT) takes two approaches to creating the sodium guide star: one uses YGAG to maximize the Raman-shifted output at the sodium D2 resonance. The second approach is to thermally tune the output of YAG to reach the appropriate wavelength for Raman shifting to 589 nm. Initial results from YGAG indicate that it will not be a suitable material for creating the sodium guide star laser. Initial results from the YGAG laser is presented, along with a discussion of the potential of the technology.
Lite Cycles has developed a new type of eye-safe, range-gated, lidar sensing element based on Solid-state Raman Image Amplification (SSRIA) in a solid-state optical crystal. SSRIA can amplify low-level infrared images with gains greater than 106 with the addition of only quantum-limited noise. The high gains from SSRIA can compensate for low quantum efficiency detectors and can reduce the need for detector cooling. The range-gate of SSRIA is controlled by the pulsewidth of the pump laser and can be as short as 30 - 100 cm for nanosecond pulses and less than 5 mm if picosecond pulses are used. SSRIA results in higher SNR images throughout a broad range of incident light levels, in contrast to the increasing noise factor with reduced gain in image intensified CCDs. A theoretical framework for the optical resolution of SSRIA is presented and it is shown that SSRIA can produce higher resolution than ICCDs. SSRIA is also superior in rejecting unwanted sunlight background, further increasing image SNR, and can be used for real-time optical signal processing. Applications for military use include eye-safe imaging lidars that can be used for autonomous vehicle identification and targeting.
The design and performance of a short-pulse (1.5 ns), high- energy (90 mJ/pulse) nonlinear cavity-dumped, frequency- doubled, solid-state intracavity Raman laser is presented. The laser described is utilized as the transmitter in a high- resolution surf-zone marine imaging lidar system.