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Science. 2011 Jan 28;331(6016):442-5. doi: 10.1126/science.1199492.

High-gain backward lasing in air.

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Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544, USA.


The compelling need for standoff detection of hazardous gases and vapor indicators of explosives has motivated the development of a remotely pumped, high-gain air laser that produces lasing in the backward direction and can sample the air as the beam returns. We demonstrate that high gain can be achieved in the near-infrared region by pumping with a focused ultraviolet laser. The pumping mechanism is simultaneous resonant two-photon dissociation of molecular oxygen and resonant two-photon pumping of the atomic oxygen fragments. The high gain from the millimeter-length focal zone leads to equally strong lasing in the forward and backward directions. Further backward amplification is achieved with the use of earlier laser spark dissociation. Low-divergence backward air lasing provides possibilities for remote detection.

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