Abstract

This paper gives the details of a precision two-beam scanning Michelson interferometer, designed and perfected for accurate comparison of an unknown laser wavelength and the precisely calibrated wavelength of a reference laser. An iodine Lamb-dip stabilized He–Ne 633-nm laser (calibrated with respect to a Kr standard) is used as the reference. The design incorporates features to minimize instrumental errors and the effect of fringe shifts caused by diffraction (in the IR). It is applied to accurate measurements of a stable CO2 laser wavelength tuned to the centers of its various transitions. Measurements are done by simultaneous fringe counting and relative fringe-phase comparison at the two wavelengths using on-line data storage and processing with an electronic digital computer. The accuracy in the 10-μm region is several parts in 109 and is limited by correction for diffraction fringe shifts. Because of its low-Q and broadband operating characteristics, it can be applied to rapid accurate laser wavelength measurements over the entire wavelength range permitted by its transmitting optics. In the visible range where the diffraction correction is small, the interferometer can be used to perform measurements to within several parts in 1011. The paper gives theoretical derivation of various diffraction corrections, the design and construction of the interferometer, the alignment procedures, detailed analysis of various error sources, and data processing. It also gives the details of a previously reported accurate measurement of the speed of light using the measured wavelength of the CO2R(14) line and its known frequency.

© 1981 Optical Society of America

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