The effects of thermal turbulence on the phase fluctuations of a laser beam are investigated in laboratory. The turbulent region created by means of a horizontal heated Nichrome grid is made to shift upwards owing to the convective motion. A Mach-Zehnder interference experiment is performed in which two beams from a laser source are superimposed after crossing the turbulent region. The displacements of the fringe pattern allow one to study the temporal decay of the mean square refractive index fluctuation. An interpretation of the results is given on the basis of the theory of an isotropic turbulent scalar field.
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