Abstract

Ultrafast pulsed laser interferometry (PLI) can measure picometer displacements at sub-nanosecond time scales, such as acoustic waves and vibrations in microstructures. In this Letter, the effects of pulse characteristics on the accuracy of PLI are investigated through measurements and modeling. The results show that the effective wavelength of PLI, λeff, varies significantly as a function of overlap between the interfering pulses due to pulse asymmetry and nonlinear chirp. This variation presents a serious limitation on the accuracy of PLI if unaddressed. However, it is shown that a continuous-wave laser interferometer can be used to determine λeff with an uncertainty near 0.01%, making it possible to use PLI for accurate displacement measurements.

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