We report on the synchronization of two commercial picosecond Ti:sapphire lasers with unprecedented low temporal jitter between the pulse trains. Pulse jitter is reduced from a few picoseconds to 20 fs with a stability of several hours. The technology enabling the tight pulse synchronization is reviewed in this article. We demonstrate the usefulness of the synchronization scheme by applying the technique to coherent anti-Stokes Raman scattering (CARS) microscopy. It is shown that CARS images can be acquired with a significant improvement in signal-to-noise ratio. This level of performance brings the fluctuations of the CARS signal down to the fundamental photon shot-noise limit. We present detailed statistical analysis of the pulse jitter and CARS noise along with enhanced CARS vibrational images of polymer beads. (C) 2002 American Institute of Physics.
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