Abstract

In femtosecond degenerate four-wave mixing experiments in sodium vapor, quantum beats are observed at the wavelength of the third harmonic when the fundamental beams are three-photon resonant. The period of beating, which corresponds to fine structure energy-level splitting, does not change with the atomic number density, buffer gas pressure, or laser intensity. Surprisingly, the third-harmonic signal is observed only at negative time delays for the transient grating pulse sequence. We relate this to the well-known interference effect between excitation pathways involving the fundamental and the third-harmonic fields, which leaves atoms virtually unexcited and prevents formation of population grating.

© 2013 Optical Society of America

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