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3 - Interaction of light with generic active media

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 May 2011

Malin Premaratne
Monash University, Victoria
Govind P. Agrawal
University of Rochester, New York
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The study of optical effects in active media is rich with unexpected consequences. For instance, one may imagine that absorption and amplification in a dielectric medium will exhibit some sort of symmetry because both are related to the same imaginary part of the dielectric constant, except for a sign change. It turns out that such a symmetry does not exist [1]. This issue has also been investigated in detail for random or disordered gain media, with varying viewpoints [2]. Traditionally, much of the research on amplifying media has considered the interaction of light within the entire volume of such a medium. Recent interest in metamaterials and other esoteric structures in which plasmons are used to manipulate optical signals has brought attention to the role of surface waves in active dielectrics [3, 4].

From a fundamental perspective, the main difference between active and passive media is that spontaneous emission cannot be avoided in gain media. As a result, a rigorous analysis of gain media demands a quantum-mechanical treatment. Spontaneous emission in a gain medium depends not only on the material properties of that medium but also on the optical modes supported by the structure containing that material [5]. By a clever design of this structure (e.g., photonic crystals or microdisk resonators with a metallic cladding), it is possible to control the local density of optical modes and the spontaneous emission process itself. In Chapter 4, we discuss how to model a gain medium under such conditions by deploying optical Bloch equations.

Light Propagation in Gain Media
Optical Amplifiers
, pp. 63 - 87
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2011

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