Abstract

We present a method for the measurement of small optical absorption coefficients. The method exploits the deformation of cavity Airy peaks that occur if the cavity contains an absorbing material with a nonzero thermorefractive coefficient dn/dT or a nonzero expansion coefficient ath. Light absorption leads to a local temperature change and to an intensity-dependent phase shift, i.e., to a photothermal self-phase modulation. The absorption coefficient is derived from a comparison of time-resolved measurements with a numerical time-domain simulation applying a Markov-chain Monte Carlo algorithm. We apply our method to the absorption coefficient of lithium niobate doped with 7mol.% magnesium oxide and derive a value of αLN=(5.9±0.9)×104/cm. Our method should also apply to materials with much lower absorption coefficients. Based on our modeling, we estimate that, with cavity finesse values of the order of 104, absorption coefficients of as low as 108/cm can be measured.

© 2010 Optical Society of America

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