Pockels Effect - Applications of Pockels Cells

Applications of Pockels Cells

Pockels cells are used in a variety of scientific and technical applications:

  • A Pockels cell, combined with a polarizer, can be used for a variety of applications. Switching between no optical rotation and 90° rotation creates a fast shutter capable of "opening" and "closing" in nanoseconds. The same technique can be used to impress information on the beam by modulating the rotation between 0° and 90°; the exiting beam's intensity, when viewed through the polarizer, contains an amplitude-modulated signal.
  • Preventing the feedback of a laser cavity by using a polarizing prism. This prevents optical amplification by directing light of a certain polarization out of the cavity. Because of this, the gain medium is pumped to a highly excited state. When the medium has become saturated by energy, the Pockels cell is switched, and the intracavity light is allowed to exit. This creates a very fast, high intensity pulse. Q-switching, chirped pulse amplification, and cavity dumping use this technique.
  • Pockels cells can be used for quantum key distribution by polarizing photons.
  • Pockels cells in conjunction with other EO elements can be combined to form electro-optic probes.
  • A Pockels Cell was used by MCA Disco-Vision (DiscoVision) engineers in the optical videodisc mastering system. Light from an Argon-Ion laser was passed through the Pockels Cell to create pulse modulations corresponding to the original FM video and audio signals to be recorded on the master videodisc. MCA used the Pockels Cell in videodisc mastering until the sale to Pioneer Electronics. To increase the quality of the recordings, MCA patented a Pockels Cell stabilizer that reduced the 2nd Harmonic Distortion that could be created by the Pockels Cell during mastering. MCA used either a DRAW (Direct Read After Write) mastering system or a Photoresist system. The DRAW system was originally preferred, since it didn't require clean room conditions during disc recording, and allowed instant quality checking during mastering. The original single-sided test pressings from 1976/77 were mastered with the DRAW system as were the "educational", non-feature titles at the formats release in December 1978.

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