Conical emission, redshifted from the atomic resonance, is observed when a ∼2-ps laser beam, blueshifted from resonance, propagates through potassium vapor. In contrast, no cone is visible when a 150-fs pulse is used. The 2-ps-pulse-induced cone has a unique, small, angular spread of compared with from other pulsed experiments, which used 25-ps–5-ns-excitation pulses. In addition, the fraction of the 2-ps-pulse power emitted in the cone reached 7.5%, far exceeding this fraction from the longer-pulse experiments. An additional, unexpected result is that the spectral width of the laser pulse is narrower, without significant intensity loss, after propagation through the vapor. The vapor densities and laser detunings that yield cones in the present experiment are similar to those from the longer-pulse experiments. Although the 2-ps-pulse spectrum partially overlaps the resonance, the cone spectrum and cone angles versus density and laser detuning are similar to those previously reported for nanosecond pulses. The fourth (blue-detuned) wave required for satisfying four-wave mixing is absent, again equivalent to what is observed in the nanosecond experiments. The physical origin of cone emission by pulsed excitation of atomic vapors is still largely unknown, and this high efficiency and narrow angular spread of a spectrally broad cone further contradicts existing models, perhaps ultimately providing a clue to a correct explanation.
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