New Ultrafast Measurement Technique Shows How Lasers Start From Chaos

Lasers that emit ultrashort pulses of light are critical components of technologies, including communications and industrial processing, and have been central to fundamental Nobel Prize-winning research in physics. Although first invented in the 1960s, the exact mechanism whereby lasers actually produce such bright flashes of light has remained elusive. It has not been previously possible to look inside a laser as it is first turned on to see how the laser pulses build up from noise. However, research recently published online in Nature Photonics has demonstrated for the first time how laser pulses emerge out of nowhere from noise and then display complex collapse and oscillation dynamics before eventually settling down to stable regular operation.

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