Thesis/Capstone Archive



Hyrum Richardson (Senior Thesis, April 2017, Advisor: Michael Ware )


Pancharatnam's phase is the additional phase beyond the dynamical phase of electromagnetic radiation that arises due to polarization evolution, and although it is a fundamental property of polarization, the linear and nonlinear properties it exhibits are not well understood or discussed. A computer simulation extendable to any polarization circuit was developed that makes Pancharatnam's phase more intuitive and understandable. Two types of interferometers were tested, a symmetric Sagnac interferometer and a Mach-Zehnder interferometer, to measure the linearity and nonlinearity of Pancharatnam's phase. The simulation and experimental results were compared and shown to match closely. The linearity of Pancharatnam's phase can be predicted and measured, and our model is accurate to the physical phenomenon and useful for interferometry applications.


Matthew Ashby (Senior Thesis, August 2016, Advisor: Michael Ware )


We compare the behavior of light scattered by free electrons in an intense laser focus to quantum electrodynamics (QED) predictions. We are primarily interested in what happens to the radiation field when the electron wave packets spread to the scale of the driving-laser wavelength. As the wave packet expands in the laser focus, different parts of the wave packet oscillate out of phase with each other. The question naturally arises whether the different parts of the wave packet will interfere with each other in such a way as to suppress the radiative process. A classical model predicts this suppression; however, it goes against QED. In our experiment a large vacuum chamber is backfilled with helium. These helium atoms become electron donors as the atoms are ionized in an intense laser focus. The electrons from the helium atoms drift forward at a good fraction of the speed of light, red-shifting the signal. We use a series of filters to isolate the light from the free electrons from the background noise in the vacuum chamber. In comparing the data from our experiment with various predictions, we found evidence supporting the QED model as we did not observe radiative suppression.


James Fletcher (Senior Thesis, December 2015, Advisor: Michael Ware )


We report on an ongoing experiment conducted to determine the relationship between the size of an electron wave packet and radiation scattered from a relativistic laser pulse. We ionize Helium during an initial pulse from our intense laser to generate free electrons which are then subject to the delayed laser pulse for scattering. Here we vary how early the initial pulse arrives in relation to the delayed pulse in order to vary the size of the free electron wavepacket. As expected this produced no noticeable variation in the intensity of scattered radiation.

Zak Jones (Senior Thesis, August 2015, Advisor: Michael Ware )



COLIN Mann (Senior Thesis, September 2014, Advisor: Michael Ware )


To calibrate the efficiency of our detection channel, we use parametric downconversion to generate correlated photon pairs. By sending UV laser light into a non-linear crystal, some light is downconverted into lower energy pairs. These pairs are correlated, so by sending one pair member through the detection channel and the other pair member directly into a single photon counter, we can compare the two signals and find absolute efficiency. This work was supported by the National Science Foundation (Grant No. PHY-0970065).


Caleb Coburn (Senior Thesis, August 2013, Advisor: Michael Ware )


We report the intensity measurement of a high intensity pulsed laser focus and the efficiency characterization of an optical signal collection system. We seek experimental confirmation that large free electron wave packets radiate like point particles. Our experiment requires intensities on the order of 1018 W/cm2 to produce red-shifted signal photons. The red shift is important in discriminating against a large background. We use time-of-flight spectroscopy to measure the charge to mass ratio of laser induced multiply ionized argon and compare the highest achieved charge state with known strong-field ionization intensities. We also use parametric down conversion to make an absolute efficiency measurement of our detection system. These measurements are necessary to ensure our apparatus is capable of producing the intensity dependent signal that we seek and allow us to calculate the total radiated signal. We measure a pulse intensity of at least 1:571018 W/cm2. The collection efficiency is 22:71%. This work was supported by the National Science Foundation (Grant No. PHY-0970065).

Matthew Groesbeck (Senior Thesis, August 2013, Advisor: Michael Ware )


We describe the motivation for a research project measuring decay rates of various beta decay-type isotopes. Recent publications have suggested that nuclear decay rates show an unexpected slight annual oscillation. The unknown factor causing this fluctuation is hypothesized to be the variable flux of solar neutrinos through the earth. Our experiment is designed to test these claims by tracking the counts of ten beta-decay samples over a period of up to ten years. The samples will be measured by multiple radiation detectors under strict environmental controls. The central LabView control program is also described in depth.


Eric Flint Cunningham (Masters Thesis, July 2011, Advisor: Michael Ware )


There are at least two common models for calculating the photoemission of accelerated electrons. The ‘extended-charge-distribution’ method uses the quantum probability current (multiplied by the electron charge) as a source current for Maxwell’s equations. The ‘point-like-emitter’ method treats the electron like a point particle instead of like a diffuse body of charge. Our goal is to differentiate between these two viewpoints empirically. To do this, we consider a large electron wave packet in a high-intensity laser field, in which case the two viewpoints predict measurable photoemission rates that differ by orders of magnitude. Under the treatment of the ‘extended-charge-distribution’ model, the strength of the radiated field is significantly limited by interferences between different portions of the oscillating charge density. Alternatively, no suppression of photoemission occurs under the ‘point-like-emitter’ model because the electron is depicted as having no spatial extent. We designed an experiment to characterize the photoemission rates of electrons accelerated in a relativistic laser focus. Free electron wave packets are produced through ionization by an intense laser pulse at the center of a large vacuum chamber. These quantum wave packets can become comparable in size to the laser wavelength through natural spreading and interactions with the sharp ponderomotive gradients of the laser focus. Electron radiation emitted out the side of the focus is collected by one-to-one imaging into a 105-micron gold-jacketed fiber, which carries the light to a single photon detector located outside the chamber. The electron radiation is red-shifted due to mild relativistic acceleration, and we use this signature to spectrally filter the outgoing light to discriminate against background. In addition, the temporal resolution of the electronics allows distinction between light that travels directly from the focus into the collection system and laser light that may scatter from the chamber wall.

Patrick van Langen (Senior Thesis, May 2011, Advisor: Michael Ware )


We investigate the utility of a spatial interferometer based on fiber optics for future applications in quantum interference. The interferometer is constructed by having two separate fibers with one end free and the other end bundled with the other. This allows for the free ends to be moved freely to capture the source and the other end to be close together and effectively form a two slit. The interferometer is tested by making two coherent sources with a beam splitter and then coupling the sources into the fiber optics much like a Michelson interferometer. It was found that the interferometer did provide the desired interference pattern with good visibility. However, the fringes would frequently and randomly move which limits some of the possible uses. It is believed that these problems arise from small movements in the fibers caused by vibrations from the ground and surrounding area. Despite the limitations caused by the moving fringes it would still be possible to use the apparatus for spatial quantum interference. In addition, this setup could also have uses in endoscopes and microscopes.


John P. Corson (Senior Thesis, December 2009, Advisor: Michael Ware )


We investigate the phenomenon of precursor fields within the framework of joint time-frequency distributions. Our approach utilizes the Spectrogram, the Wigner Distribution, and the Choi-Williams Distribution. We model pulse propagation and precursor evolution for single-resonance and double-resonance Lorentz media using each distribution. None of the three distributions gives a completely intuitive picture for all scenarios. The Choi-Williams Distribution resolves features only after the precursor components temporally separate. The Spectrogram distinguishes signal components well, but poorly resolves their chirp and does not match the group delay. The Wigner Distribution aptly resolves chirp, but clouds time-frequency plots with non-physical interference terms. We discuss the advantages and limitations of time-frequency analysis.


Dustin Shipp (Senior Thesis, April 2008, Advisor: Michael Ware )


We used a numerical model to study spontaneous parametric down-conversion, a process in which a single photon splits into two "daughter" photons. The model predicts the location of daughter photons based on phase matching conditions. The user can vary parameters such as crystal type, pump and signal photon wavelength, and geometries of the system. Varying these parameters allows properties of down-conversion to be tested and optimized. We experimentally confirmed several features included in the model for Type I down-conversion in a BBO crystal. We found that the diameter of the down- conversion ring is well modeled by our numerical approach. We experimentally measured the total down-conversion output over all angles at a single wave- length to remain roughly constant as the size of the ring varied. Our model does not predict this well due to its incompleteness.


Lee Johnson (Capstone, August 2007, Advisor: Michael Ware )


We constructed a two particle interferometer. Using the finished interferometer, we were able to observe two-photon interference using entangled photon pairs produced through parametric down conversion. This phenomenon cannot be explained classically, but demonstrates purely quantum effects, explainable using quantum theory.

David A Niemi (Masters Thesis, April 2007, Advisor: Michael Ware )


We investigate the influence of the pump and collection mode parameters on the collection efficiency of Type I down converted photons into single mode fibers. For best single and coincidence counting rates, we find that the mode sizes should be close to the same size and that the mode waists should be located near the down-conversion crystal. Larger collection waists give higher collection efficiencies, but lower singles counts.


Tyler Weeks (Capstone, December 2005, Advisor: Michael Ware )


Absolute x-ray calibration of laser-produced plasmas was performed using a focusing crystal von Hamos spectrometer. The plasmas were created by an Nd-YAG laser on massive solid targets (Mg, Cu, Zn, Sn, Mo, Ta, Ti, Steel). A Cylindrical mica crystal and a CCD linear array detector were used in the spectrometer. Both the mica crystal and CCD linear array were absolutely calibrated in the spectral range of λ=7 – 15 Å. The spectrometer was used for absolute spectral measurements and the determination of the plasma parameters. The unique target design allowed for multiple instruments to observe the plasma simultaneously which improved analysis. The high spectrometer efficiency allowed for the monitoring of absolute x-ray spectra, x-ray yield and plasmaparameters in each laser shot. This spectrometer is promising for absolute spectral measurements and for monitoring laser-plasma sources intended for proximity print lithography.