Nonlinearity Engineering and the Tale of the Two Laser Inventions
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Nonlinearity Engineering and the Tale of the Two Laser Inventions

F. Ömer Ilday,

 Physics Department, Bilkent University

Ultrafast science impacts on nearly all areas of modern technology, and femtosecond lasers are invaluable tools in applications covering diverse fields such as materials processing, biomedical imaging, and frequency metrology.  Advances in ultrafast science have always gone hand-in-hand with the developments in laser technology. A femtosecond laser is, however, a complex device, rendering their operation difficult even in a research laboratory in the hands of an experienced research. Fiber lasers are hailed as the solution thanks to their operational simplicity.  However, the propagation of short pulses in optical fiber necessarily leads to high intensities, ultimately limiting the performance of these lasers through the onset of nonlinear effects.

The presence of strong nonlinear effects in fiber laser cavities drives rich and complex dynamics. The dynamics is interesting from a fundamental perspective, in addition to holding the key to technical progress. The nonlinear waves community has unraveled the fascinating world of solitons, and similaritons (self-similarly evolving pulses) through experiments in fibers. For the last decade, fiber lasers have been allowing us to observe these waves subject to dissipative effects and periodic boundary conditions.

In this talk, I will tell the tale of two inventions; the similariton laser [1] and the soliton-similariton laser [2] and how we have come to understand femtosecond laser physics better through the lens of these developments. The similariton laser was the first laser design to work with nonlinear effects, rather than trying to avoid or compensate for them. This laser has been duplicated in countless laboratories in the world and forms the basis of at least half a dozen commercial products. Recently, the soliton-similariton laser goes one step further, where the propagation dynamics are, in fact, everywhere nonlinear. This new design combines, for the first time, two distinct nonlinear waves within the same cavity, matched by strong dissipative transitions, to yield extremely robust and low-noise performance.

Wednesday, April 14th. 2010, FENS L035, 13:40 P.MIn the final part, I will give a short overview of the applications being pursued at Bilkent University, from femtosecond nanosurgery and material processing to ultra-precise RF signal generation.

[1] Ilday et al., Physical Review Letters, 2003.

[2] Oktem et al., Nature Photonics, 2010.


Dr. F. Ömer Ilday received his BS in physics from Bogazici University in 1998 and PhD from Cornell University in 2003. His accomplishments include the invention of the similariton laser, the soliton-similariton laser, several lasers with record-breaking performance, the first mode-locked laser to use a photonic crystal fiber for dispersion control, his contributions to the modeling of fiber lasers and amplifiers. He is the author of more than 30 journal papers, 100 conference contributions and has given more than 40 invited seminars at institutions throughout the world. He holds 4 issued US patents. He is a recipient of the prestigious TÜBA-GEBIP award by the Turkish Academy of Sciences. His contributions to the scientific community include serving as topical editor of Optics Letters since 2008.

Wednesday, April 14th. 2010, FENS L035, 13:40 P.M