Observation of picosecond superfluorescent pulses in rubidium atomic vapor pumped by 100-fs laser pulses
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We study the superfluorescence (SF) from a gas of rubidium atoms. The atoms of a dense vapor are excited to the 5D state from the 5S state by a two-photon process driven by 100-fs laser pulses. The atoms decay to the 6P state and then to the 5S state. The SF emission at 420 nm on the 6P-5S transition is recorded by a streak camera with picosecond time resolution. The time duration of the generated SF is tens of picoseconds, which is much shorter than the time scale of the usual relaxation processes, including spontaneous emission and atomic coherence dephasing. The dependence of the time delay between the reference input pulse and SF is measured as a function of laser power. The experimental data are described quantitatively by a simulation based on the semiclassical atom-field interaction theory. The observed change in scaling laws for the peak intensity and delay time can be elucidated by an SF theory in which the sample length is larger than the cooperation length. 2010 The American Physical Society.