Interaction of intense laser pulses with gas for two-color THz generation and remote magnetometry

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The interaction of intense laser pulses with atmospheric gases is studied in two contexts: (i) the generation of broadband terahertz radiation via two-color photoionization currents in nitrogen, and (ii) the generation of an electromagnetic wakefield by the induced magnetization currents of oxygen.

(i) A laser pulse propagation simulation code was developed to investigate the radiation patterns from two-color THz generation in nitrogen. Understanding the mechanism for conical, two-color THz furthers the development of broadband THz sources. Two-color photoionization produces a cycle-averaged current driving broadband, conically emitted THz radiation. The THz emission angle is found to be determined by an optical Cherenkov effect, occurring when the front velocity of the ionization induced current source is greater than the THz phase velocity.

(ii) A laser pulse propagating in the atmosphere is capable of exciting a magnetic dipole transition in molecular oxygen. The resulting transient current creates a co-propagating electromagnetic field behind the laser pulse, i.e. the wakefield, which has a rotated polarization that depends on the background magnetic field. This effect is analyzed to determine it's suitability for remote atmospheric magnetometry for the detection of underwater and underground objects. In the proposed approach, Kerr self-focusing is used to bring a polarized, high-intensity, laser pulse to focus at a remote detection site where the laser pulse induces a ringing in the oxygen magnetization. The detection signature for underwater and underground objects is the change in the wakefield polarization between different measurement locations. The magnetic dipole transition line that is considered is the b-X transition band of oxygen near 762 nm.