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The First National Conference for Engineering Sciences FNCES'12 / November 7-8, 2012

Nonlinear Properties and Optical Limiting of

Olive Oil by using Z-scan Technique
Amal F. Jaffar*1, Ansam M. Salman **2 ,Israa N.Akram**3 and Dr. Anwaar A. Al. Dergazly**4
* Ministry of High Education & Scientific Researge, Foundation of Technical Education, Institute of Medical Technology Mansour
1 amalfaisal55@yahoo.com
**Al Nahrain University, college of engineering, laser and optoelectronics eng. Dep.
2 ansamalrawi@yahoo.com
3 sarah.marium@yahoo.com
Abstract-A simplified and sensitive experimental technique
named z-scan has been used in this work, to study the optical
nonlinearity and optical limiting of olive oil. Olive oil
classified as organic compounds which have a good nonlinear
optical properties candidate to be used in photonic applications.
A high purity sample of olive oil has been subjected to
spectrophotometer to determine the transmission spectrum using
UV-VIS spectrophotometer. The nonlinear optical properties
represented by nonlinear refractive index and nonlinear
absorption coefficient are determined by using a CW of 532 nm
in two parts. The first part has been done using a closed aperture
(with two different diameter 1 mm and 2 mm) placed in front of
the detector to measure the nonlinear refractive index which
exhibits negative refractive index (defocusing).Second part was
done using an open aperture to measure the nonlinear
absorption coefficient, where the samples exhibit two photon
absorption behavior under the experimental conditions. Real and
imaginary parts of the third-order optical nonlinearity, (3) were
evaluated. The third-order nonlinearity of olive oil is dominated
by nonlinear absorption, which leads to strong optical limiting of
the laser.
Keywords: Olive oil, z-scan technique, nonlinear refractive
index, nonlinear absorption coefficient, optical limiting.

Rapid technological advancements in optics have placed
great demand on the development of nonlinear optical (NLO)
materials with prominent applications in optical limiting and
all optical switching extremely large number of organic
compounds with delocalized electron and conjugated double
bond systems and a large dipole moment have been
synthesized to realize the susceptibilities far larger than the
inorganic optical materials [1].
The olive oil behaves as a nonlinear material where it has a
''blue shift'' in some excited wavelengths. Therefore, the
nonlinear optical properties of olive oil which are of
prominent importance for photonics applications have been
found [2]. Lyotropic liquid crystals are one of liquid crystals
obtained by varying the temperature or concentration which is
obtained when an appropriate concentration of material is
dissolved in some solvent. The most common systems those

formed by amphiphilic molecules (molecules posses a

hydrophilic part that interacts strongly with water and a
hydrophobic part that is water insoluble).
The olive oil represents the one class of lyotropic liquid
crystal in nematic phase [3]. Liquid crystals are optically
highly nonlinear materials in that their physical properties
(temperature, molecular orientation, density, electronic
structure, etc.). These are obtained by an applied optical field.
The polarized light beam from laser source can induce an
alignment or ordering in isotropic phase. These result in a
change in refractive index. In isotropic phase the change in
refractive index is due to the density change following arise in
temperature. In the nematic phase the change in the refractive
index depend directly on the temperature. The reorientation of
molecules in liquid crystals depends on the phase of liquid
crystals. For the isotropic phase the liquid crystal molecules
are randomly oriented owing to thermal motion. So an intense
laser field will force the anisotropic molecules to align
themselves in the direction of optical field through the dipolar
interaction [4].
Z-scan technique based on the spatial distortion of a
laser beam passed through a nonlinear optical material (NLO)
is widely used in material characterization because of its
simplicity, high sensitivity and well-elaborated theory. The
opportunity to conduct simultaneous measurements of various
NLO parameters in one set of experiments also makes this
technique attractive and applicable for different materials.
This method yields both the sign and the magnitude of the
nonlinearity, and the value of the nonlinear refractive index n2
may be easily extracted from experimental data with a
minimum of analysis [5, 6].
There were two parts of the z-scan: closed aperture
and open aperture. Closed aperture z-scan helps to the sign
and magnitude of both real & imaginary part of third order
(NLO) and nonlinear refractive index (n2) .Open aperture zscan eithertwo types: saturable absorption (SA) and reverse
saturable absorption (RSA). Depending on the pump intensity
and on the absorption cross section at the excitation
wavelength. Open aperture z-scan helps to measure the
nonlinear absorption coefficient 2 [7].

The First National Conference for Engineering Sciences FNCES'12 / November 7-8, 2012
Optical limiting is a nonlinear optical process in which
the transmitted intensity of a material decreases with increased
incident light intensity. An ideal optical limiter has a linear
transmitted intensity at low input intensities, but above the
threshold intensity, its transmitted intensity becomes constant.
Nonlinear optical effects can be employed for the design and
performance of optical limiter. It has been demonstrated that
optical limiting can be used for the protection of eyes and
sensors from intense lasers [8]. In this paper, the optical
nonlinearity and optical limiting action for olive oil at 100 mw
CW laser power at wavelength of 532 nm was studied by
using z-scan technique , closed and open aperture. Closed
aperture experiment was repeated for two different aperture
diameters, (1 and 2 mm), the third order nonlinear refractive
index, the nonlinear absorption coefficient, third order
susceptibility was evaluated. The dependence of the threshold
value on the aperture size makes it convenient to optimize the
threshold intensity of in optical limiting.

The standard closed aperture Z-scan (i.e. aperture
is placed in the far field) for determining nonlinear refraction
is shown in Fig. 1, where the sample is moved along the
propagation direction z while keeping the input pulse energy
fixed. The normalized transmittance of the sample through the
aperture is monitored in the far field asa function of the
position Z. The normalization is performed in such a way that
the transmittance is unity for the sample far from focus where
the nonlinearity is negligible [9]. Intensity dependent on the
refractiveindex causes the beam radius of the transmitted
beam to change while retaining the Gaussian profile.

as follows: Starting the scan from a distance far away from the
focus (negative z), the beam irradiance is low and negligible
nonlinear refraction occurs leading to linear transmittance. As
the sample is brought closer to the focus, the beam irradiance
increases leading to self-lensing in the sample. A negative
self-lensing (self-defocusing) prior to focus tends to collimate
the beam and reduce the diffraction leading to a smaller beam
at the aperture and an increased transmittance. As the scan
continues and the sample crosses the focal plane to the right
(positive z), the same self-defocusing effect will tend to
augment diffraction and reduce the aperture transmittance .A
prefocal transmittance maximum (peak) and a post focal
transmittance minimum (valley) will be, the z-scan signature
of a negative nonlinearity as shown by the dote line fig. (2),
while a positive one, following the same analogy, will give
rise to an opposite valley-peak configuration, as shown by
Solid line fig. 2. [10].

Fig. 2: Calculated Z-scan transmittance curves for a third order nonlinearity


We define the change in transmittance between the

peak and valley in a Z-scan as:
Tpv= Tp -TV (1)
where Tp and Tv are the normalized peak and valley
transmittances as seen in Fig. 2. The empirically relation (3)
determined the relation between the induced on axis phase
shift, 0, and Tpvfor a third-order nonlinear refractive
process in the absence of nonlinear absorption (NLA) is,

T pv 0.406 (1 s)


Fig. 1: The scheme of the closed aperture z-scan[10].

The size of the aperture is signified by its transmittance

(S), in the linear regime. In most reported experiments,
0.1<S<0.5 has been used for determining nonlinear refraction.
Z-scan technique is based on the transformation of
phase distortions to amplitude distortions during beam
propagation. A qualitative physical argument that explains the
transmittance variations in the Z-scan experiment can be given

.. (2)

S = 1 exp(2r2 a /w20) . (3) [12]

S: is the aperture linear transmittance, with w0denoting the
beam radius at the aperture in the linear regime.
The nonlinear refractive index is calculated from the
peak to valley difference of the normalized transmittance by
the following formula: n2 =

/Io Leff k.(4)


The First National Conference for Engineering Sciences FNCES'12 / November 7-8, 2012

2 P peak



is on the axis irradiance,

Ppeak: The peak power given by:

Ppeak=E/t. (6)
E: the energy of the pulsed laser,
T: the time duration. (with pulsed laser).

: The beam radius at the focal point, , is the wavelength

of the beam.


: The effective length of the sample (thickness), can

determined from the following formula: [13, 14]

(1 e o L) / o (7)


L: the sample thickness, [10]

: Linear absorption coefficient,

L ln( )


where T: linear transmittance.

Linear refractive index can be determined from the following
no =1/T+ [(1/T2) - 1]0.5 . (9)
The contribution of nonlinear refraction to
normalized transmittance affected by the diameter of the
aperture where, the contribution of nonlinear refraction to
normalized transmittance decreases as the diameter of the
apertureincreases and their peak-to-valley separation increases
as the nonlinear phase shift increases. [15].
An open-aperture Z-Scan measures the change in
intensity of a beam, focused by lens lin Fig. 3, in the far field
at detector PD, which captures the entire beam, and gives the
estimate of the absorptive nonlinearity of a sample [16].The
change in intensity is caused by multi-photon absorption in
the sample as it travels through the beam waist. In the focal
plane where the intensity is greatest, the largest nonlinear
absorption is observed. At the tails of the Z-scan signature,
where | Z | >>Zo, the beam intensity is too weak to elicit
nonlinear effects. The higher order of multi-photon absorption
present in the measurement depends on the wavelength of
light and the energy levels of the sample [17].

Fig. 3: Open-aperture Z-Scan [11]

The absorptive nonlinearity can be due to either (i)

saturable absorption (SA), in which the absorption coefficient
decreases resulting in thetransmittance increase with increase
in the input laser intensity, and (ii) reverse saturable
absorption (RSA), in which the absorption coefficient
increases resulting in the transmittance decrease with increase
in the input laser intensity .The normalized change in
transmitted intensity can be approximated by the following
equation, [18]:

I o Leff
. (10)

/ Zo) 2 position at the minimum
( Zsample

T ( z)
minimum transmittance,
(m 1T) 3(z):the
m 0m: integer,

In the case of saturation type of nonlinear absorption can

be estimate from the relation:
Self-focusing (or Kerr-Lansing) is a consequence of the
non-uniform spatial profile of the laser Gaussian beam. If the
intensity of a transmitted light beam is sufficiently high, the
refractive index change will modify the light propagation not
only with respect to the polarization but in its geometrical
properties too [19].
For a Gaussian beam of radius o(beam waist)the Kerr-lens
focal length is:
F= a o2/4Ln2I........................... (11)
Where L is the thickness of the nonlinear medium (sample), I
is the irradiance and a is a correction term.
When n2 is negative, the above equation shows there
will be a negative focal length and thus self de-focusing of the
incident beam [10].
The variation in refractive index will produce a phase
shift in the pulse, leading to a change of the pulse's frequency
spectrum. A pulse (top curve, fig. 4 propagating through a
nonlinear medium undergoes a self-frequency shift (bottom

(Re( 3 )) 2 (Im( 3 )) 2

curve) due to self-phase modulation. The front of the pulse is

shifted to lower frequencies, the back of the pulse to higher
frequencies. In the centre of the pulse the frequency shifted is
approximately linear [20, 21].

1/ 2

The First National Conference for Engineering Sciences FNCES'12 / November 7-8, 2012
In a material with a strong nonlinear effect, the
absorption of light increases with intensity such that beyond a
certain input intensity the output intensity approaches a
constant value. Such a material can be used to limit the
amount of optical power entering a system. The ideal behavior
of such a device is shown in Fig. 5, [23]. One important
criteria in evaluating the utility of an optical limiting material
is whether it shows broad band spectral response, i.e., if it is
transparent at low intensities while exhibiting a large
nonlinearity at high intensities over a broad band spectral

Fig. 4: Self focusing in the laser beam due to the optical Kerr effect [20].

If the intensity of a transmitted light beam is sufficiently

high almost every material, gases, liquids or solids, will show
a nonlinear interaction. Thus the refractive index will be
changed as:
nx= Kkerrinc.(3/4E2inc.,x + E2ext).(12)
Where Kkerr is Kerr constant, inc.: incident wave length, E
inc.the incident electric field, Eext is the external electric field,
if the nonlinear range of the electric field or intensity is

In particular, if light beams with transverse intensity
profile, as Gaussian beams, are applied this refractive index
change will be different over the cross-section of the beams
As a consequence for high-intensity beams with long
interaction lengths in the matter self-focusing can occur and
for short interaction lengths self-defocusing may be obtained
Experimentally determined nonlinear refractive index n2
and nonlinear absorption coefficient can be used in finding
the real and imaginary parts of the third-order nonlinear
optical susceptibility [ 3] according to the following: [9]
Re (3)(esu) = 10-40c2n02n2/ (cm2/W) (13)
Im(3) (esu) = 10-20c2n02 /42 (cm/W) (14)
Where 0is the vacuum permittivity and c is the light velocity
in vacuum. [8 ,9]
The absolute value of the third-order nonlinear optical
susceptibility is given by the relation [8]
.. (15)

Fig. 5: An ideal optical limiter [22].


The experimental work based on the testing the olive oil
transmission spectrum using UV-VIS spectrophotometer.
Fig.6 shows the transmission spectrum of olive oil. The
optical transmission of olive oil shows a variable behavior of
the transmission as a function of the incident wavelength. The
transmission behavior olive oil is about (95.5) % at
wavelength of 532 nm.
The Z-scan experiments were performed using a 532 nm CW.
Maximum power is 100 m watt, beam Diameter: 3 mm, Beam
divergent 2.16x10-3mrad, Ac: 220-240 volt, frequency: 50-60
Hz 250 mA which was focused by 10 cm focal length lens.
The laser beam waist o at the focus is measured to be 21. 6
m and the Rayleigh length to be 2.75 mm. The linear
absorption coefficient of olive oil o ,and linear refractive
index n0 were determined form eq. (8) and eq. (9)
respectively for the two aperture sizes as shown in table I. The
olive oil solution was filled into the glass cuvette of 1cm

The First National Conference for Engineering Sciences FNCES'12 / November 7-8, 2012
Closed aperture z-sczn Technique for olive oil w ith different aperture sizes
Aperture diam eter (1)m m

Transmittance (a.u)

Aperture Diam eter (2) m m


Trendline (1)m m
Trendline (2)m m









Z in m m

Fig. 7.closed aperture Z-scan profile of olive oil with two different sizes
aperture (1 and 2 mm)at I0=6.83 Kwatt/cm2.

Table I linear absorption 0 and linear refractive index no of olive oil.







1 cm





For z-scan experiment, the transmittance through the
sample is monitored as a function of the incident laser light
intensity, with and without an aperture in the far field, while
the sample is gradually translated along the optical axis of a
convex lens. The intensity dependent transmission through the
sample measured as a function of sample position with respect
to the focal plane, with an aperture (closed aperture (CA),
fig.1) includes the effect of both nonlinear refraction and
nonlinear absorption, if any, the division of the normalized
closed aperture Z-scan data by the open aperture Z-scan data
generates a Z-scan profile pertaining to the purely dispersive
(refractive) nonlinearity. Without an aperture (open aperture
(OA),fig. 3 gives information about purely absorptive
nonlinearity. The measurement of nonlinear refractive index
n2 and nonlinear absorption coefficient provide a direct
measurement of the real and imaginary parts of the third-order
nonlinear optical susceptibility (3).
The third-order nonlinear refractive index n2 of olive oil
with different size aperture (1mm and 2 mm) and the
nonlinear absorption coefficient , for the incident intensity
I0= 6.83 KW/cm2 were evaluated by the measurements of Zscan. Fig. 7 shows the typical closed aperture Z-scan profiles.

Fig. 7 shows also that, the contribution of nonlinear

refraction to normalized transmittance decreases as the
diameter of the apertureincreases and their peak-to-valley
separation increases as the nonlinear phase shift increases,
Table II. This result is good agreement with Shu-Qi Chen.
Table II:Nonlinear refractive index parameters


3( cm/watt )2

1 mm


2 mm






Im 3




Leff.,S,o , n2,were calculated from equations 7,3, 2, 4

respectively. Tpv is the normalized peak and valley
transmittances were estimated from the relative positions of
the peak and valley with Z as shown in Fig. 7.
Fig. 8 is The open aperture Z-scan was carried out to
determine the sign and magnitude of the nonlinear absorption
of olive oil for the incident intensity I0= 6.83 KW/cm2 shows
the typical open aperture Z-scan profiles.
Open Aperture Z-scan for olive oil

Transmittance (a.u)

Fig. 6: UV-VIS transmission of olive oil.









Z in (m m )

Fig. 7 indicates to negative refractive index for the two sizes

(1 and 2 mm) is attributed to a thermal nonlinearity resulting
from the absorption of radiation at 532 nm, analogy to the
theoretical behavior in the dotted line in fig.2. The solid
curves in fig. 7 represent the best trend line.

Fig. 8: Normalized transmittance versus position at 532 nm wave length, 100

mw input power foropen-aperture.

The linear transmittance is normalized to unity. When the

sample is away from the focus Z=0, the incident laser
intensity is low and the normalized transmission is close to 1;
when it moves close to the focus, the open aperture Z-scans
exhibits a reduction in the transmission which is symmetric
about the focus Z=0 . This is typical of an intensity dependent

The First National Conference for Engineering Sciences FNCES'12 / November 7-8, 2012
enhanced absorption termed reverse saturable absorption
(RSA) or positive nonlinear absorption exhibited by a
nonlinear material [24], and can be exploited for protection of
eyes and sensors against radiation induced damage.

The limiting effect of olive oil was studied by using a 100

mW .CW laser at 532 nm. The experimental set-up for the
demonstration of optical limiting is shown in Fig. 9.

The experimentally determined values of , Tpv, n2,) and 3

are given in Table III.
Table III: Nonlinear parameters for olive oil with two sizes aperture (1 and 2
mm) by using CW laser at 532 nm.

1 mm
2 mm

Fig 9: Experimental set-up for measuring limiting














Table III shows that the difference between the third-order

nonlinear optical susceptibility 3 values for the two aperture
is very small as if it doesnt depend on the diameter of the
aperture . R3, , Im 3, 3, were determined from equations:
13, 10, 14, and 15, respectively.
The experimentally measured n2 of olive oil were compared
with other nonlinear liquid materials,
such as Fuchsin dye in 1- Butanol solution. This material had
a nonlinear refractive index -6.80 10-8 cm2/W at
continuous wave (cw) laser illumination. [25].
Qualitatively, these values were in good agreement with our
experimental values ofolive oil. The highest nonlinearity of
olive oil can be used in photonic devices applications (e.g.
Liquid-filled photonic crystal fiber).
With cw pumping we expect major contribution to
the observed third-order nonlinearities to be thermal in nature.
The energy from the focused laser beam is transferred to
sample through linear absorption and is manifested in terms of
heating the medium leading to a temperature gradient and
there by the refractive index change across the sample which
then acts as a lens. The phase of the propagating beam will be
distorted due to the presence of this thermal lens. The peak
valley separation of more than 1.7 times the Rayleigh range of
~ 2.754 mm also suggests the presence of thermal component
in our case. It is well established that a separation of ~ 1.7z0
indicates Kerr-type of nonlinearity.
It is worth noting that the value of 3 for the dye studied is
larger than those of some representative third-order nonlinear
optical materials such as safranin O [1] dye and its derivatives
and organic dyes like Mercurochrome [24].



A 1-cm quartz cuvette containing olive

oil is kept at the position where the
transmitted intensity shows a valley in
closed aperture Z-scan curve. Since the sample is a negative
nonlinear material the valley point was closely behind the
focus. A polarizer was used to vary the input power. An
aperture A of variable diameter is used to control the crosssection of the beam coming out of the sample cuvette. This
beam is then made to fall on the photo detector (PD). The
input laser intensity is varied systematically and the
corresponding output intensity values were measured by the
photo detector. At very high peak intensities (closer to the
focus) we could observe diffraction type pattern with
concentric ring structures probably due to self-phase
modulation. However, in limiting experiments we have
ensured that there is no ring pattern formation by placing the
sample away from focus. With open aperture experiment the
aperture was removed.

The optical limiting curves obtained with a 100 mWcw laser

of wavelength 532 nm for olive oil with different aperture
diameter and without aperture are shown in Fig. 10 and 11.
For closed aperture experiment the output power rises initially
with an increase in input power, but above 30 mw the output
power tends to be constant, because its nonlinear absorption
coefficient increases with an increase in the incident
irradiance. In liquids, where the thermal expansion is large,
high absorbance of the nonlinear material at the corresponding
wavelength leads to an increase in temperature and density of
the sample. Heating due to laser absorption is responsible for
changing the absorption coefficient and optical limiting effect.
The optical limiting effect shows an increase with small
diameter aperture and that is due to large nonlinear
susceptibility. When the pinhole was removed optical limiting
threshold is above 60 mw. This means that optical limiting
with closed aperture is more effective than open aperture.

The First National Conference for Engineering Sciences FNCES'12 / November 7-8, 2012
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input (m w )







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Fig. 10: Optical limiting effects of olive oil for closed aperture z-scan with
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Fig. 11: Optical limiting effects of olive oil for open aperture z-scan.

We have measured the nonlinear refraction index coefficient,
n2, the nonlinear absorption coefficient, and susceptibility,
(3) for olive oil using the Z-scan technique with 532 nm laser
with two different aperture diameters. The Z-scan
measurements indicated that olive oil exhibited negative
nonlinear optical properties. We have shown that the
nonlinear absorption can be attributed to two photon
absorption process, while the nonlinear refraction leads to self
defocusing in this oil. It is worth noting that the value of (3)
for olive oil studied is larger than those of some
representativethird-order nonlinear optical materials such as
organic polymers and organic metal. (3)doesnt affected
with the aperture diameter. Olive oil has large optical limiting
properties due to its largenonlinear susceptibility especially
with small aperture size compared with the case where the
aperture was removed.

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