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Name of Institution: Raman Research Institute, Sadashivanagar, Bangalore


Project Guide- Reji Philip, Associate Professor, LAMP Group ,Raman
Research Institute Sadashivanagar, Bangalore 560080.

Group Members: Augustin M. J., Benoy Anand, C. S. Suchand Sandeep.
Raman Research Institute, Sadashivanagar, Bangalore 560080

Category: Research (LASERS and Nonlinear Optics )

Software Used
Lab VIEW 8.5.1

The Challenge

The Z-scan technique is a popular experimental technique used by researchers all
over the world to measure intensity dependent nonlinear optical susceptibilities of
materials. Taking the Z-scan measurements manually is a tedious and time-consuming
process. It involves the precision movement of a translation stage holding the sample
material over a large number of steps, and making measurements of the transmitted and
scattered laser beams from the sample at each step. Each step is typically about 100
microns in size, and the total translation normally requires 300 to 500 steps. At each step
a laser pulse needs to be fired, and the corresponding data should be acquired from three
different photo detectors. The Z-scan data thus acquired needs to be analyzed using
conventional curve fitting methods to determine the characteristic nonlinear optical
coefficients, which is another time consuming process. Considering the tedium of this
experiment, automation becomes essential.

Solution To the problem
The above challenge can be met by developing a reliable, accurate and user
friendly program using LabVIEW, which can synchronize and control the various
processes involved in the Z-scan experiment, such as moving the translation stage, firing
the laser and acquiring the data. The program should also be capable of analyzing the
data, plotting the final data in graphical form and employing curve fitting methods to fit
the obtained Z-scan data to standard nonlinear transmission equations.

Characterization of the nonlinear optical properties of materials is of utmost
interest in several fields of physics, both from the fundamental as well as applied points
of view. In particular, great effort has been devoted to the determination of the third-order
nonlinear optical susceptibility
, responsible for useful optical phenomena such as
third harmonic generation, optical phase conjugation and nonlinear transmission in
isotropic media. Among a few available methods of measuring
, the Z-scan technique
is the most popular. In this method, the sample is translated along the axis of a focused
Gaussian beam (taken as the z-axis), and the transmitted energy is measured as a function
of sample position. The position of the focal point is taken as z = 0. A graph plotted with
the z value on the x-axis and normalized transmitted energy on the y-axis is known as the
Z-scan curve. By numerically fitting the data in the Z-scan curve to standard nonlinear
transmission equations, the real and imaginary parts of the third order susceptibility

can be calculated.

Fig.1: The Z-scan experimental setup

The typical experimental setup is given in Fig.1. As shown, a lens focuses the
laser beam having a transverse Gaussian profile. The sample is moved along the laser
beam in such a way that the starting point and ending point are symmetrically situated on
either side of the focal point. At the focal point the sample will experience maximum
light intensity, which will progressively decrease in either direction of motion from the
focus. A suitable photo detector is placed in the far field to detect the transmitted energy,
which is measured as a function of the position of the sample. Two more detectors are
usually used to measure the pulse-to-pulse fluctuations in laser energy and the scattered
laser energy from the sample respectively. The obtained transmission data is normalized
with respect to the linear transmission of the sample and the Z-scan curve is plotted. The
data is then fitted to standard nonlinear transmission equations to determine
of the
given sample.

Standard equations used for fitting the data

1. Transmission equation for a two photon absorption process:

For a temporal and spatial Gaussian laser pulse, the normalized transmittance T of
the samples experiencing a two-photon absorption is given by
dt t q

+ = ) exp( 1 ln


Where q


and z

where is the wavelength and
the focal spot radius. is the effective nonlinear absorption coefficient, which will be
estimated from the best-fit curve to the experimental data. If L is the length of the sample
and log
L is the linear absorption coefficient then L
is given by L
= [1-exp(-
L)]/. The quantity I
is the on-axis peak intensity, which is calculated as I
t A

where E is the energy of the laser, A is the irradiation area and t is the laser pulsewidth.

2. Transmission equation for a three photon absorption process:
The normalized transmittance T of the samples experiencing a three-photon
absorption is given by

dt t p t p

+ + = ) exp( ) 2 exp( 1 ln
2 2


Here p

) 2 (

and L
=1-exp(-2L)]/2, where is the absorption
coefficient, L is the sample length, and I
is the incident intensity. is the three photon
absorption coefficient ,which is to be determined from the best-fit curve to the data.

3. Transmission equation involving a saturable absorption process:
The Transmission equation in this case is given by

( ( ) ) I L
T e

+ 1

And I =
t A

, where A=
) (
and z) is calculated using
+ . Here E
corresponds to the laser pulse energy and t corresponds to the laser pulsewidth.

Experimental set up
The experimental set up consists of a high power pulsed laser, necessary optical
components to direct laser beam to the sample, a stepper motor controlled translation
stage to move the sample, electronic driver circuits for the stage and the laser, three photo
detectors, and a digital storage oscilloscope (DSO). The control signals for translation
stage movement and laser firing are delivered through the parallel port of the PC to the
driver circuit. The analog voltage outputs from the detectors are taken to three different
input channels of the DSO, which digitizes the data and transfers it to the PC via the
serial communication port.

System Implementation
There are two VIs, (a) Z-scan Controller and (b) Z-scan curve fitting tool.

(a) Z-scan Controller
This VI consists of three sections as given below.
1. Data input stage

Fig.2: Front Panel for data input
In this stage the user can enter input values to the program except date and time,
which will be automatically taken from the system. The Driver port indicates the address
of the parallel port to which the stepper motor driver circuit is connected. The DSO Port
indicates the port to which the Digital Storage Oscilloscope is connected. First these ports
are selected appropriately (by default the program selects parallel & serial ports, but this
can be changed if necessary). Then the current position of the stage is entered as present
position in the required field. The required values of the initial position and final position
of the stage are then entered. Interval indicates the interval between two successive steps.
Conversion factor is a quantity that depends on the energy meter and the neutral density
filters used in front of the photo detectors. This might vary with the experimental setup,
and hence is given as an input option. The user can also enter the name of the sample, the
solvent used if any, Calibration factor (another calibration coefficient), linear
transmittance of the sample, and approximate energy falling on the sample. There is
provision to enter the parameter aperture size in case a variant of the experiment known
as the closed aperture Z-scan is performed.

2. Data acquisition stage

Fig.3: Front Panel for data acquisition
When the run command is given, a prompt window will appear, in which the
desired file name of the data to be acquired can be entered. After entering the file name,
the program will drive the stage through the required step distance, fire the laser, take
readings from the three input channels (CH1, CH2 and CH3) of the DSO, calculate
CH2/CH1 and CH3/CH1, and plot these values as a function of z position in real time.
All these processes can be viewed in the second window.

3. Final data and graph

After data acquisition, the measured data will be displayed in the third window,
and the Z-scan curve will be plotted. An optional fourth window will plot the normalized
transmittance vs the corrected position graph.

Fig.4: Front Panel for data display

Fig.5: Front Panel for the normalized graph

(b) Z-scan curve fitting tool
This VI also has three sections. The first section reads Z-scan data from the file
and extracts the parameters needed for curve fitting, the second one manages the curve
fitting process and the third one writes the best-fit data to an output file specified.

1. File read

This tab reads the Z-scan data file and extracts the necessary parameters for curve
fitting. Provisions are provided to cross check and if necessary, to change the parameters.
Once this is finished the curve fitting process starts and we can switch to the second tab.

Fig.6: Front Panel for file reading

2. Curve fit

The main advantage of this VI is that fitting of three different processes can be
done simultaneously. Use of standard curve fitting tools will not yield satisfactory results
since they take noise points also into consideration. Another way is to write independent
programs for each of the three processes and vary the parameter for each run. Since the
values of the parameter will vary over a large range, this method will tend to be time
consuming. Utilizing the power of graphical programming we developed a visual fit
method. In this method, the parameter to be varied is associated with a dial control (outer
one for coarse variation and inner one for fine adjustment). During curve fitting process
these controls can be varied to get the best fit to the experimental data. The best fit will
be indicated by the Difference curve, which becomes a straight line for the perfect fit.
Once best fit is obtained, the curve fitting process can be terminated by pressing the Stop

Fig.7: Front Panel for Curve fit

3. Documentation

This section stores the best-fit values obtained by the curve fitting program along
with the experimental and theoretical data to a file of our choice. A prompt for entering
the file name and selecting the best-fit curve is provided in the interface. Depending on
the selection, the corresponding data gets stored to the file.

Fig. 8: Front Panel for the curve fit documentation


In the present work we have developed a VI using LabVIEW for synchronizing
and performing various mechanical, electronic and curve fitting processes involved in the
Z-scan experiment. The VI developed is very flexible and reliable. By implementing this
program, we have reduced the time taken for a single Z-scan measurement in the lab from
about two hours to approximately five minutes.

Format of the final data copied to the .txt file and Z-scan Graph
APPROX.ENERGY : 15.000000
APERTURE(mm) : 0.000000
INITIAL POSITION(microns) : 20200.000000
FINAL POSITION(microns) : 45000.000000
INTERVAL(microns) : 200.000000
WAVELENGTH : 532.000000
Position A B C B/A C/A ENERGY
20200.000 1.800 1.880 0.048 1.044 0.027 14.062 0.992
20400.000 1.720 1.820 0.044 1.058 0.026 13.437 1.005
20600.000 1.940 2.040 0.054 1.052 0.028 15.155 0.998
20800.000 1.780 1.880 0.048 1.056 0.027 13.905 1.003
21000.000 2.080 2.180 0.056 1.048 0.027 16.249 0.995
21200.000 1.780 1.880 0.048 1.056 0.027 13.905 1.003
21400.000 1.880 1.980 0.052 1.053 0.028 14.687 1.000
21600.000 1.920 2.020 0.054 1.052 0.028 14.999 0.999
21800.000 1.740 1.840 0.046 1.057 0.026 13.593 1.004
22000.000 1.820 1.920 0.050 1.055 0.027 14.218 1.002
22200.000 1.940 2.040 0.054 1.052 0.028 15.155 0.998
43400.000 1.960 2.060 0.054 1.051 0.028 15.312 0.998
43600.000 1.780 1.860 0.048 1.045 0.027 13.905 0.992
43800.000 1.980 2.080 0.054 1.051 0.027 15.468 0.997
44000.000 2.040 2.140 0.058 1.049 0.028 15.936 0.996
44200.000 1.920 2.020 0.052 1.052 0.027 14.999 0.999
44400.000 1.800 1.880 0.052 1.044 0.029 14.062 0.992
44600.000 1.900 1.980 0.052 1.042 0.027 14.843 0.989
44800.000 1.780 1.860 0.050 1.045 0.028 13.905 0.992
45000.000 1.940 2.020 0.056 1.041 0.029 15.155 0.989