We focus theoretically and experimentally on the fundamental limitations of spectral pulse shaping using an acousto-optic modulator. We analyze the role of the relative thickness of the interaction region as dictated by the acousto-optic parameter and show that varying allows flexibility in choosing between diffraction efficiency and pixels of resolution. We model and experimentally demonstrate the effects of potential nonidealities such as nonlinear acoustic attenuation. In addition, we derive a simple and intuitive expression to predict the magnitude of the distortions in the spatial profile generated by an acousto-optic-modulator spectral light modulator. Finally, we demonstrate amplification of acousto-optic-modulator-generated shaped pulses for the first time.
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