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I understand the working principle behind zapping some gas and looking at spectral emissions, and I can see why photodetection is so difficult. But I thought that pointing a laser into a vacuum chamber would be the easy part. So I ask: what the heck is all this equipment that the laser has to go through before it even gets to the sample?

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    $\begingroup$ Actually it is not that complicated. It looks like the experiment is of the pump-probe type as there is a delay line and a retroreflector. Divergence of beam has to be controlled, then has to be split into two, possibly polarisation changed and beams refocussed, height adjusted etc. to get it into the sample. $\endgroup$ – porphyrin Apr 27 '17 at 8:05
  • $\begingroup$ @porphyrin - so, it is really that simple, huh? Said tongue in cheek, because that is what I first thought too. Somehow in my memory it seemed easy to set that kind of thing up too! To the OP, what looks complicated at first glance becomes quite easy with a little experience... $\endgroup$ – Jon Custer Apr 27 '17 at 12:39
  • $\begingroup$ @Jon - not simple by any means just not that complex! I have always found that postgrad students soon become fully adept at using such instruments and unfazed at making their own improvements :) $\endgroup$ – porphyrin Apr 27 '17 at 15:18
  • $\begingroup$ I think the point is that somebody new sees a bunch of individual components, while an experienced person sees functional units. $\endgroup$ – Jon Custer Apr 27 '17 at 16:01
  • $\begingroup$ "Divergence of beam has to be controlled, then has to be split into two, possibly polarisation changed and beams refocussed, height adjusted etc. to get it into the sample."....OK, but why does the laser have to be manhandled in so many different ways? I'm aiming a laser into a chamber; do I really need to control divergence and polarization over just a few feet? And where would I find a primer on the functions of all of these components? (links to equipment suppliers are pretty useless as explanations are usually flimsy) $\endgroup$ – Knob Scratcher Apr 27 '17 at 23:40

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