Application of femtosecond filamentation in gaseous media

Authors: Hosseini, Sima
Advisor: Rainville, SimonWitzel, Bernd
Abstract: This thesis presents experimental results obtained during filamentation of ultrashort and intense laser pulses, with an intensity of ~ 10¹³ W/cm2 in air. A femtosecond Ti:Sapphire laser was used to generate pulses in the infrared at 800 nm. Because of some unique features of the filaments, this particular form of propagation has been considered for many applications. In this work, we focus our attention on remote sensing and the detection and identification of atmospheric pollutants. The goal is to improve the results and resolve some problems in the detection of air pollutants, especially those with the same filament-induced fluorescence spectrum. The presented experiments were performed inside a laboratory. The remote sensing of pollutants in the atmosphere mainly relies on the propagation of filaments at high altitude where the pressure is low. For this application, it is therefore important to have a good understanding of filamentation in these real conditions. We experimentally and numerically studied the effect of lowering the pressure on a single filament in air. The experiment was done by varying air pressure inside a cell between 0.3 and 1 standard atmospheric pressure (1 atm ~ 1:01 X 10⁵ Pa). One way to remotely detect atmospheric pollutants is to record the returning fluorescence signal from the molecular fragments that are created during filamentation. Because the propagation distance is large in these spectroscopic experiments, the signal is heavily attenuated before reaching the detector and it is important to look for a solution to enhance the fluorescence signal. We therefore investigated the possibility of using the filament itself as a gain medium along the propagation direction to amplify the emission of some impurities in air. It is known that the femtosecond laser filament can amplify backward-directed signal in pure air, so we started our experiments in air, and then extended them to air-hydrocarbons mixtures (2% de CH₄, C₂H₂ et C₂H₄ dans l'air). The fluorescence emission from neutral nitrogen at ~ 337 nm in pure air and from CH fragments at ~ 431 nm in air-hydrocarbons mixtures was detected. In both cases, the fluorescence signal emitted in the direction opposed to the laser propagation increased nonlinearly with the filament length, unlike the emission directed on the sides which showed a linear trend. The last chapter of the thesis introduces a new way to identify molecules that relies on their alignment. Indeed by measuring the rotational constants of different molecules using iv eld-free molecular alignment, we show that pollutants can be detected and identied in air. It is important to mention that this approach can distinguish pollutants for which the excited fragments have the same fluorescence spectra (same atomic lines and molecular bands). The results reported in this thesis were obtained by a pump-probe experiment where the scattered signal of the probe pulse was detected, as opposed to other experiments which collected the transmitted light. Observing the scattered signal instead of the transmitted one makes this technique appropriate for remote sensing applications. Even though molecules are randomly oriented in the gas phase, it is shown that ultrafast intense laser pulses can force molecules to align both in the presence of the laser feld as well as after the passage of the pulse. More specifically, a rotational wavepacket can be created by an ultrashort laser pulse, leading to a feld-free alignment of the molecules after the laser pulse has passed which can revive at regular intervals. Therefore, in addition to finding rotational constants and identifying molecules, it is possible to extract information about the dissipative medium by studying the changes in the wavepacket a long time (several periodic revivals of molecular alignment) after the passage of the pulse.
Document Type: Thèse de doctorat
Issue Date: 2019
Open Access Date: 29 May 2019
Grantor: Université Laval
Collection:Thèses et mémoires

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