Abstract

We demonstrate the quality factor Q = (0.8 ± 0.1) × 1010 of whispering-gallery modes in fused-silica microspheres at 633 nm, close to the ultimate level determined by fundamental material attenuation as measured in optical fibers. The lifetime of ultimate Q is limited by adsorption of atmospheric water. Monitoring of adsorption kinetics with submonolayer sensitivity by Q factors and frequencies of whispering-gallery modes is demonstrated. The possibility of supermaterial Q’s owing to intrinsic suppression of scattering losses in micropheres is discussed.

© 1996 Optical Society of America

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