Abstract

We review the nonlinear-optical effects observed at room temperature in semiconductor quantum-well structures photoexcited near the band gap. A comprehensive discussion of optical transitions in these microstructures is given, including excitonic effects and the specific features of room-temperature exciton resonances. Experimental investigations using continuous-wave, picosecond-, and femtosecond-laser sources are presented. They show extremely efficient nonlinear processes. In the case of excitations that are long compared with the exciton-ionization time, the induced changes in absorption and refraction do not depend on the wavelength or on the duration of excitation. These changes depend only on the density of absorbed photons and are interpreted in terms of electron–hole plasma screening and band filling. In contrast, for ultrashort excitation, nonlinear processes depend critically on the excitation wavelength. The selective generation of excitons is found to produce effects larger than a plasma of the same density. This unexpected result is shown to arise from the low temperature of the exciton gas before it interacts with the lattice and from the decrease of screening that is the reduced dimensionality of quantum-well structures.

© 1985 Optical Society of America

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