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Direct measurement of the effective input noise power of an optical parametric amplifier


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The spontaneous fluorescence background in optical parametric amplifiers is generally attributed to the zero-point fluctuations of the electromagnetic field. These are amplified in parallel to the seed light and lead to an uncompressible superfluorescence background that deteriorates the contrast in optical parametric chirped pulse amplifiers (OPCPA). The absolute level of the underlying parametric fluorescence has not been reported so far. Comparing the fluorescence to low level cw seed light and quantitatively monitoring the output of a noncollinear optical parametric amplifier for both sources, the level is now determined. In a situation of 50 nm visible output bandwidth and low Gaussian spatial modes about 58 photons are found in the signal direction within the femtosecond time window of the amplifier. The superfluorescence level is observed to be proportional to the pump area for constant signal amplification. The implications for the background in high power OPCPA are discussed.