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Back to the future with greater precision

Ding (right), with former research associate Xiaodong Mu, has also achieved breakthroughs in generating terahertz radiation.

The perpetual motion of molecules, says Yujie Ding, makes air a turbulent medium that undermines efforts to achieve clear long-distance imaging.

“When you send a beam of light through a turbulent medium,” says Ding, professor of electrical and computer engineering, “the returning beam is no longer coherent. The phase of the returned light wave becomes random and this causes the image you see to be blurred.”

Improving the quality of images is critical for people mapping the earth with satellites, studying the skies with telescopes or monitoring the environment with remote sensors.

To overcome the negative effects of turbulent media, scientists have tried to exploit a third-order nonlinear medium. The goal is to achieve a time-reversed returning beam, or phase conjugate beam, with its phase variation and propagation direction exactly opposite to those of the incoming beam. But wave mixing in a third-order nonlinear medium, says Ding, is an inefficient process.

Scientists have also tried to take advantage of the photorefractive effect. However, phase conjugation based on this effect, says Ding, is too slow to effectively recover or correct blurred images.

An invitation to the prestigious CLEO conference

Ding is experimenting with a second-order nonlinear medium that he believes much more efficiently reverses the phase variation of the incoming light wave through phase conjugation.

“Phase conjugated returning wave is a time reversal of the incoming wave,” says Ding. “It’s like going back to the future. If the returning wave recovers the phase of the incoming wave before it enters the turbulent medium, the present meets the past in an almost instantaneous process. The recovery of the original wave results in no distortion in the image that you see.

“Using second-order nonlinearities to achieve phase conjugation in the absence of the photorefractive effect has not been done before. We have experimental results that demonstrate phase conjugation using second-order nonlinearities. We’re trying to improve the efficiency of the process.”

This coming May in Baltimore, Maryland, Ding will give a presentation on his findings at CLEO 2011, the Conference on Lasers and Electro-Optics, which is one of the most prestigious refereed conferences in his area of research.

Ding’s work is supported by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research.

Ding’s research into terahertz (THz) radiation is well-known and led to his election in 2007 as a Fellow of the Optical Society of America. He has achieved breakthroughs in generating THz radiation by mixing the frequencies from two narrow-linewidth lasers and detecting THz radiation based on parametric wave mixing at room temperature.

He has served as a primary guest editor for two special issues of IEEE Selected Topics in Quantum Electronics on THz. In the past two years, he has also served as chair of a CLEO THz subcommittee. He will be guest editor for two upcoming special journal issues on THz.


Photo by Douglas Benedict

Story by Kurt Pfitzer

Posted on Wednesday, February 23, 2011

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