We describe a sensitive technique for observing small transverse modifications to intensity, phase, and polarization arising in nonlinear propagation of a laser beam through an atomic vapor. The technique, which in essence is an interferometric one, is based on the use of crossed polarizers that are nearly but not exactly pure circular. Illustrative results are presented for cw dye-laser radiation propagating through collisionally broadened atomic sodium that is near resonant to the D1 line. Well-defined ring patterns produced by nonlinear interactions are observed at both positive and negative laser detunings.
© 1995 Optical Society of America
B. Röhricht, U. Rusch, S. Dangel, H. Schmid, P. Eschle, R. Holzner, and W. J. Sandle, "Optical-pumping-induced ring structures of polarized laser light propagating through sodium vapor," J. Opt. Soc. Am. B 12, 1411-1415 (1995)