Basic physics of interactions between matter and short light pulses is of fundamental interest. Such interactions generally involve coherence effects where all molecules of a sample “dance” in unison. As an example, we have used molecular coherence to efficiently generate short bursts of light that are automatically synchronized with respect to the molecular oscillations. Furthermore, our work has shown that an increased and cleverly manipulated molecular coherence enables improvements in optical detection and sensing techniques. Short laser pulses provide a unique tool for probing the environment. In particular, femtosecond pulses, when powerful enough, will produce laser filaments that have found intriguing remote-sensing applications, such as filament-induced breakdown spectroscopy and sub-diffraction-limited imaging of remote objects.
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