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The photorefractive effect in lithium niobate and its applications Elguibaly, Fayez H. F.


In iron-doped lithium niobate and other similar crystals, exposure to light of appropriate wavelength induces small changes in the refractive index. This phenomenon is called the photorefractive effect. It allows phase holograms to be stored in these crystals. The work to be described was undertaken to obtain a better understanding of the mechanisms of the photorefractive effect and to investigate possible engineering applications. The photorefractive effect is believed to involve the spatial redistribution of photoexcited electrons among traps. This causes a space charge field to develop-which modulates the refractive index via the linear electro-optic effect. A new bulk photovoltaic effect special to ferroelectric crystals, first recognized by Glass et al., is important in the photorefractive effect in these crystals. It is shown that the finite electron transport length in this effect makes the photovoltaic current distribution spatially shifted from the light intensity pattern that causes it. Moreover, it is shown that the spatially varying photovoltaic current component which is responsible for the hologram formation decreases as the spatial frequency of the light interference pattern increases. Hologram writing by the photorefractive effect is modelled for arbitrary electron transport length. The treatment allows for the feedback effect of the space charge field and for the dark conductivity of the crystal. The model applies to uniform illumination and constant applied voltage conditions. It is shown that except in crystals where diffusion dominates the .hologram is spatially shifted from the light intensity pattern that caused it because of the finite electron transport length associated with the bulk photovoltaic effect. Experimental results which bear upon the bulk photovoltaic effect and the associated electron transport length are reported. Hologram writing with an arbitrary one-dimensional light intensity distribution is modelled allowing for the feedback effect of the space charge field at all writing times, A large scale space charge field associated with the envelope of the light is shown to affect the writing process. It is found that for any type of intensity distribution an increase in the fraction of the crystal which is illuminated improves the efficiency of the hologram writing process. Also for partially illuminated crystals the storage efficiency improves as the photoconductivity approaches the dark conductivity value from above. For a fully illuminated crystal the storage efficiency improves as the ratio of the photoconductivity to dark conductivity increases. Experimental observations of the effect of the large scale field on hologram storage are reported. Beam distortion and optically induced scattering are two problems encountered while storing holograms in lithium hipbate. We report experimental observations and theoretical models for these phenomena. It is shown that beam distortion is due to the defocusing action of the large scale refractive index change due to the envelope of light. Light scattering is suggested to be due to the lens action of the index variations due to laser speckles inside the crystal. A theoretical treatment of the spatial filtering properties of volume holograms is presented. Practical applications of volume holograms in the fields of interferometric testing and optical. communications are also discussed.

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