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Lasing without population inversion in air
preprintposted on 2023-11-30, 05:53 authored by André Mysyrowicz, Rostyslav Danylo, Pengji Ding, Aurélien Houard, Vladimir Tikhonchuk, Xiang Zhang, Zhengquan Fan, Qingqing Liang, Songlin Zhuang, Luqi Yuan, Yi Liu
A cavity-free laser in the sky could lead to revolutionary improvements in optical remote sensing for atmospheric science. Abundant in air, nitrogen molecules are prime candidates as an active medium for such a laser. Nitrogen molecules, either neutral or singly ionized, exhibit a significant optical gain in the UV regime when pumped by an intense femtosecond laser. Despite numerous works, the physical origin of this lasing is still not understood. Here we offer a consistent interpretation of all experimental facts by introducing a concept drawn from the field of quantum optics: transient lasing without inversion. Our experiments and simulations identify the crucial role of macroscopic coherence, instead of population inversion, in the nitrogen ions lasing system. Manipulating the macroscopic coherence provides a new level of control over nitrogen air lasing and offers new perspectives for the generation of very short wavelength laser where population inversion is difficult to achieve.