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Optical Engineering

Impact of Lasers in Spectroscopy
Author(s): Jeffrey I. Steinfeld
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Paper Abstract

The theme to be explored in this meeting is that the laser is far more than just another light source for spectroscopists; it will be amply demonstrated that the laser has been the basis of a qualitative revolution in this branch of science, just as the development of NMR has profoundly altered the practice of organic chemistry, or as the digital computer has made modern systems analysis possible. In this paper we will consider some of the unique features of the laser that have made this revolution possible, and some of the applications of these features. The most striking aspect of the laser is the enormous quantity of optical power and/or energy that is capable of being generated. This feature combines with the spectral purity and beam collimation which are consequences of the coherence of the laser output to produce a spectral surface brightness which may be 16 or more orders of magnitude greater than for conventional light sources. The phase coherence of the laser output is another unique feature, and improvement in time resolution over conventional sources by five or more orders of magnitude can also be obtained. These features have already been exploited in a number of ways. Selective excitation of molecular energy levels has opened new possibilities in fluorescence spectroscopy, not only in the visible, but also in the hitherto inaccessible infrared region. New double-resonance techniques have been developed, and Raman spectroscopy has experienced a renaissance. Selective excitation is now likely to become very important in chemical processing as well. Saturated-absorption techniques have made possible Lamb-Dip spectroscopy and the development of optical frequency standards. Measurements can now be made on molecular beams, providing information about exotic reaction conditions and the details of scattering events. The use of coherent light sources opens the possibility of a wide variety of optical analogues of magnetic-resonance phenomena, such as pulse and echo effects, coherent transient decays, etc. A

Paper Details

Date Published: 1 December 1974
PDF: 5 pages
Opt. Eng. 13(6) doi: 10.1117/12.7978709
Published in: Optical Engineering Volume 13, Issue 6
Show Author Affiliations
Jeffrey I. Steinfeld, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (United States)


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