Ultrafast Laser Filament-induced Fluorescence Spectroscopy of Uranyl Fluoride
Uranyl fluoride (UO2F2) is a compound which forms in the reaction between water and uranium hexafluoride, a uranium containing gas widely used for uranium enrichment. Uranyl fluoride exhibits negligible natural background in atmosphere; as a result, its observation implies the presence and active operation of nearby enrichment facilities and could be used as a tracer for treaty verification technologies. Additionally, detection of UO2F2 has a potential application in guiding remediation efforts around enrichment facilities. Laser-induced fluorescence (LIF) has been proposed in the past as a viable technique for the detection and tracking of UO2F2. We demonstrate that ultrafast laser filamentation coupled with LIF extends the capabilities of standard LIF to enable remote detection of UO2F2. An intense femtosecond laser pulse propagated in air collapses into a plasma channel, referred to as a laser filament, allowing for the extended delivery of laser energy. We first investigate the luminescence of UO2F2 excited by the second harmonic of an ultrafast Ti:sapphire laser and subsequently excite it using the conical emission that accompanies ultrafast laser filamentation in air. We measure the decay rates spanning 4.3–5.6 × 104 s−1 and discuss the characteristics of the luminescence for both ultrafast- and filament-excitation. Larger decay rates than those observed using standard LIF are caused by a saturated component of prompt decay from annihilation of dense excited states upon excitation with an ultrafast source. The reproducibility of such decay rates for the given range of incident laser intensities 1.0–1.6 × 1011 W cm−2 is promising for the application of this technique in remote sensing.