Since their discovery in the mid-1990s, ultrafast laser filaments in gases have been described as products of a dynamic balance between Kerr self-focusing and defocusing by free electric charges that are generated via multiphoton ionization on the beam axis. This established paradigm has been recently challenged by a suggestion that the Kerr effect saturates and even changes sign at high intensity of light and that this sign reversal, not free-charge defocusing, is the dominant mechanism responsible for the extended propagation of laser filaments. We report qualitative tests of the new theory based on electrical and optical measurements of plasma density in femtosecond laser filaments. Our results consistently support the established paradigm.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Physics and Astronomy(all)