Laser beam control, combining, and propagation in atmospheric turbulence
Davis, Christopher C
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This dissertation is concerned with the control, combining, and propagation of laser beams through a turbulent atmosphere. In the first part we consider adaptive optics: the process of controlling the beam based on information of the current state of the turbulence. If the target is cooperative and provides a coherent return beam, the phase measured near the beam transmitter and adaptive optics can, in principle, correct these fluctuations. However, for many applications, the target is uncooperative. In this case, we show that an incoherent return from the target can be used instead. Using the principle of reciprocity, we derive a novel relation between the field at the target and the scattered field at a detector. We then demonstrate through simulation that an adaptive optics system can utilize this relation to focus a beam through atmospheric turbulence onto a rough surface. In the second part we consider beam combining. To achieve the power levels needed for directed energy applications it is necessary to combine a large number of lasers into a single beam. The large linewidths inherent in high-power fiber and slab lasers cause random phase and intensity fluctuations occurring on sub-nanosecond time scales. We demonstrate that this presents a challenging problem when attempting to phase-lock high-power lasers. Furthermore, we show that even if instruments are developed that can precisely control the phase of high-power lasers; coherent combining is problematic for DE applications. The dephasing effects of atmospheric turbulence typically encountered in DE applications will degrade the coherent properties of the beam before it reaches the target. Finally, we investigate the propagation of Bessel and Airy beams through atmospheric turbulence. It has been proposed that these quasi-non-diffracting beams could be resistant to the effects of atmospheric turbulence. However, we find that atmospheric turbulence disrupts the quasi-non-diffracting nature of Bessel and Airy beams when the transverse coherence length nears the initial aperture diameter or diagonal respectively. The turbulence induced transverse phase distortion limits the effectiveness of Bessel and Airy beams for applications requiring propagation over long distances in the turbulent atmosphere.