Abstract

Spurious coherent reflections from optical elements that re-enter an exit port of a two-mirror ring-down cavity can significantly change the effective reflectivity of the cavity mirrors, thus altering the cavity decay time. For a 25-cm-long Fabry–Perot cavity with a decay constant of 40 µs, we find that a specular reflection of only 10-4 of the transmitted ring-down power that is mode matched back toward the cavity could change the decay time by as much as ±0.4 µs, depending on the phase of the returning reflection. The perturbation of the decay time is proportional to the electric field, so a decrease in the spurious reflected power of 100 times will result in a perturbation that is only 10 times smaller. We demonstrate the effect with a cw system by purposely introducing a spurious reflection.

© 2002 Optical Society of America

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