Document Type

Article

Publication Date

Fall 11-2000

Publication Title

IEEE Journal of Selected Topics in Quantum Electronics

ISSN

1077-260X

Volume

6

Issue

6

First Page

1136

Last Page

1144

DOI

10.1109/2944.902162

Abstract

The past forty years have witnessed spectacular progress in precision measurements, beginning with the first coherent optical source, the HeNe CW laser. Almost immediately, the pioneers of the stable laser epoch introduced optical heterodyne techniques to explore the stability of the laser's optical frequency, expecting the few milliHertz linewidth predicted by the Schawlow-Townes formula for phase diffusion, and instead finding myriad physical processes that broaden and jiggle optical frequencies far beyond that narrow range. After a huge time and learning effort, most of these technical limitations can now be overcome. The paper is intended to offer a bystander/sometimes-participant's view into the advances in laser tools and the exciting scientific/technical worlds that were opened by them. Roughly one "zillion" further clever inventions and techniques have added capability to the laser and have enabled many bursts of productive research. Now, after nearly forty years of incremental progress, the astonishing reality is that within the past one year - absolute optical frequency measurements have suddenly become feasible, simple - even routine. This welcome and unexpected progress is based on the merger of techniques from the ultrastable lasers and the ultrafast lasers research communities. In a very real sense, these research objectives seem to be the exact opposites - the most unchanging versus the most quickly changing.

Included in

Physics Commons

Share

COinS