An ultrafast imaging technique has been developed to visualize directly a light pulse that is propagating in a medium. The method, called femtosecond time-resolved optical polarigraphy (FTOP), senses instantaneous changes in the birefringence within the medium that are induced by the propagation of an intense light. A snapshot sequence composed of each femtosecond probing the pulse delay enables ultrafast propagation dynamics of the intense femtosecond laser pulse in the medium, such as gases and liquids, to be visualized directly. Other examples include the filamentation dynamics in CS2 liquid and the propagation dynamics in air related to the interaction with laser breakdown plasma. FTOP can also be used to extract information on the optical Kerr constant and its decay time in media. This method is useful in the monitoring of the intensity distribution in the nonlinear propagation of intense light pulses, which is a frequently studied subject in the field of physics regarding nonlinear optics and laser processing.
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