We demonstrate a new, nonlinear optical effect of electric currents. First, a steady current is generated by applying a voltage on a doped GaAs crystal. We demonstrate that this current induces second-harmonic generation of a probe laser pulse. Second, we optically inject a transient current in an undoped GaAs crystal by using a pair of ultrafast laser pulses and demonstrate that it induces the same second-harmonic generation. In both cases, the induced second-order nonlinear susceptibility is proportional to the current density. This effect can be used for nondestructive, noninvasive, and ultrafast imaging of currents. These advantages are illustrated by the real-time observations of a coherent plasma oscillation and spatial resolution of current distribution in a device. This new effect also provides a mechanism for electrical control of the optical response of materials.
- Received 4 July 2011
© 2012 American Physical Society