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I am doing an experiment in which I would like to block a laser beam, or allow it to be transmitted through on a nanosecond scale, based on the presence or absence of an electrical signal. When electricity is flowing to it, I would like it to block the beam, and when it is not flowing, it would allow the beam to pass through. I would like this to happen within a few nanoseconds of the signal being applied or removed. Can anyone think of a device or a way to construct a device that does this? I was thinking of smart glass, but this apparently works on far too slow a scale.

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    $\begingroup$ Try googling: electro-optic modulator, Pockels cell, Mach-Zehnder interferometer, Kerr effect, electro-absorption modulator. Which one will work for you depends on wavelength, beam diameter, power level, etc. But this might become an engineering question, which is off topic for this stack. $\endgroup$ – The Photon Jul 31 '17 at 0:18
  • $\begingroup$ You say 'a few nanoseconds' like that's fast, but it corresponds to a sub-GHz bandwidth, which is still within the range of electro-optic modulators and microwave electronics. As The Photon says, there's multiple viable options and which one is best will depend on your situation, both in terms of your laser and the control electronics, in ways that may not be answerable on this site. $\endgroup$ – Emilio Pisanty Jul 31 '17 at 0:56
  • $\begingroup$ For more information on this site's scope, see Are engineering questions appropriate for this site? on meta. $\endgroup$ – Emilio Pisanty Jul 31 '17 at 0:57
  • $\begingroup$ @ThePhoton Very good inputs, definitely some things I didn't know about that can quite possibly help (especially the electro-optic modulator or electro-absorption modulator). Thank you! $\endgroup$ – Jonathan Aug 1 '17 at 16:56
  • $\begingroup$ @The Photon, if you make that comment an answer, I would accept it. The Pockels Cell looks very promising as well. $\endgroup$ – Jonathan Jan 3 '18 at 19:09
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Some devices to consider: electro-optic modulator, Pockels cell, Mach-Zehnder interferometer, Kerr effect, electro-absorption modulator.

Which one will work for you depends on wavelength, beam diameter, power level, etc.

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