South African Journal of Science
On-line version ISSN 1996-7489
Print version ISSN 0038-2353
When the walls of an open-ended horizontal steel pipe are heated before the pipe is rotated along its axis, the exchange of the expelled heated air with the incoming cooler air, sucked in along the axis, results in a medium capable of focusing a laser beam propagating along the pipe's axis - a spinning pipe gas lens. However, the interaction of the heated and cooler air generates local density fluctuations which generate aberrations on the laser beam wavefront. We present results for the characterisation of these aberrations using a Shack-Hartmann wavefront sensor. The measurements show that along the axis, rotating the pipe decreases y-tilt as a result of the removal of distortions caused by gravity, although there is an increase in higher-order aberrations. However, in the boundary layer, the dominant aberration is x-astigmatism which increases with rotation speed. The results are confirmed by the measurement of the beam quality factor which increases as a result of the increase in the size of the higher-order aberrations. The spinning pipe gas lens is a device which can be used to focus laser beams using air only, but, in the process, the air introduces distortions which reduce the quality of the beam.
Keywords : gas lenses; graded index lenses; Shack-Hartmann sensor; optical aberrations; aerodynamic media.