Difference-frequency generation (DFG)

What is Difference-Frequency Generation?

Difference-frequency generation (DFG) is a nonlinear optical process in which two input frequencies are combined in a nonlinear medium to produce a third output frequency that is the difference between the two input frequencies. This process is also known as parametric down-conversion or optical rectification. DFG is widely used in various fields, including spectroscopy, microscopy, and communication.

DFG is an important process in nonlinear optics because it allows the generation of coherent radiation at frequencies that are not readily available from lasers. The output frequency of DFG can be tuned by adjusting the input frequencies and the properties of the nonlinear medium. This tunability makes DFG a powerful tool for studying the properties of materials, particularly in the mid-infrared spectral region where many important molecular vibrations occur.

How Does DFG Work?

DFG is a second-order nonlinear process that involves the interaction of two optical fields with a nonlinear medium. The nonlinear medium can be a crystal or a waveguide made of materials such as lithium niobate, periodically poled lithium niobate, or gallium arsenide.

The two input frequencies, usually from two laser sources, are combined in the nonlinear medium to produce a third frequency that is the difference between the two input frequencies. The output frequency is typically in the mid-infrared region, where many materials have strong vibrational modes. The output power of DFG is proportional to the square of the input power, which means that high-power lasers are required to generate significant output power.

Applications of DFG

DFG has many applications in various fields. In spectroscopy, DFG is used to probe the vibrational modes of molecules, particularly in the mid-infrared region. DFG is also used in microscopy to image biological or material samples. In communication, DFG is used to convert signals from one wavelength to another.

DFG is particularly useful in imaging and sensing applications because it can provide high-resolution images of samples. DFG microscopy has been used to image biological samples, such as cells and tissues, with high spatial and temporal resolution. DFG spectroscopy has been used to study the vibrational modes of materials, such as polymers and semiconductors, with high sensitivity.

Example of DFG in Real-World Use

One example of DFG in real-world use is in the detection of explosives. Many explosives have characteristic vibrational modes in the mid-infrared spectral region that can be detected using DFG spectroscopy. A portable DFG spectrometer has been developed for the detection of explosives in the field. The spectrometer uses a microstructured optical fiber as a nonlinear medium to generate mid-infrared radiation. The spectrometer can detect trace amounts of explosives with high sensitivity and specificity, making it a valuable tool for security and defense applications.