Linearizing nonlinear optics

In the framework of linear optics, light fields do not interact with each other in a medium. Yet, when their field amplitude becomes comparable to the electron binding energies of matter, the nonlinear motion of these electrons emits new dipole radiation whose amplitude, frequency and phase differ from the incoming fields. Such high fields are typically achieved with ultra-short, femtosecond (1fs = 10-15 sec.) laser pulses containing very broad frequency spectra. Here, the matter not only couples incoming and outgoing fields but also causes different spectral components to interact and mix through a convolution process. In this contribution, we describe how frequency domain nonlinear optics overcomes the shortcomings arising from this convolution in conventional time domain nonlinear optics1. We generate light fields with previously inaccessible properties because the uncontrolled coupling of amplitudes and phases is turned off. For example, arbitrary phase functions are transferred linearly to the second harmonic frequency while maintaining the exact shape of the input power spectrum squared. This nonlinear control over output amplitudes and phases opens up new avenues for applications based on manipulation of coherent light fields. One could investigate c.f. the effect of tailored nonlinear perturbations on the evolution of discrete eigenmodes in Anderson localization2. Our approach might also open a new chapter for controlling electronic and vibrational couplings in 2D-spectroscopy3 by the geometrical optical arrangement.

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