Femtosecond imaging with digital holography
We describe a holographic technique capable of sampling dynamic events at 150 femtosecond time resolution. We apply the technique to the study of the nonlinear propagation of high energy pulses through gas and condensed media. The holograms are recorded as a digitized image from a CCD camera and reconstructed numerically to retrieve the refractive index change during the nonlinear optical process. We show dramatic differences in the pulse propagation characteristics depending on the strength of the nonlinear coefficient of the material and it's time response. Both positive and negative index changes have been measured in different media. The holographic technique allows us to distinguish the very fast positive index changes that are generally attributable to the Kerr nonlinearity from the negative index changes that result from free electrons generated by multiphoton ionization.