Photothermal refraction and focusing.
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This thesis begins with an introduction to the interaction and refraction of light in continuous media. It is shown how these properties can be exploited to achieve focusing of parallel light rays in such a medium. Past work on Gas Lenses is reviewed, highlighting the progress in design of gas lenses, leading to a justification for the research described in the rest of the chapter. Original work by the author on the subject of continuous gas lenses at low and high pressure is then presented. Experiments show that gas lenses at low pressure have stable foci, but long focal lengths, while at high pressure two foci are produced, both of unstable character. These results are explained by a simple theory, and future applications of such lensing properties are presented. Chapter two introduces the concept of the Colliding Shock Lens (CSL), and presents shallow water wave simulations, conducted by the author, as a useful analogy to the interaction of shocks in the CSL. All the properties of the CSL lensing action are reproduced in the water simulations, yielding useful insight, by means of a simple experiment, into the physics of interacting shock waves. Chapter three presents original work by the author on the subject of multiple pulse thermal lensing. A theory is developed which predicts the behaviour of thermal lenses seen in an industrial laser chain. Experiments on thermallensing, as well as some solutions, are presented and discussed. Chapter four revises the theory of Zernike Polynomials and their application to the study of aberrations. Thermal aberrations are studied, including the aberrations introduced by thermal lensing and thermal blooming. The relationship between aberrations and subsequent beam quality and beam propagation is explored. Chapter five looks at the use of adaptive mirrors for mode matching. Although the theory of adaptive systems is well known, no-one has as yet tackled the problem of correcting for mode matching changes. A new way of thinking about mode matching is proposed, and the merits of this system, called characterisation space, are explained. Chapter six comprises the theory and design of a novel vacuum chamber which has applications in gas lens designs. All the gas lenses used in pressure experiments were housed in compressional vacuum chambers. The idea of a Tensional Vacuum Vessel (TVV) is introduced, and experiments show that such chambers are very successful low vacuum chambers. The advantages and applications of TVVs are discussed, specifically those relating to gas lens applications. At the end of this thesis it was apparent that more questions had been generated than answers. This is probably true of any study. Chapter seven therefore outlines some as yet unanswered questions, and gives some suggestions for starting points. Some of this work is presently being undertaken by the author.