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Let’s say I have a one cubic centimeter of glass. Without going into the details, we know that light passes through this glass with the help of the glass. The glass facilitates light’s transmission through it. The glass does something that enables light to pass.

Because the glass is finite, it seems reasonable to conclude that there must be a limit to the amount of light it can process. Is there a volume limit to the amount of light the glass can process?

Note: I’m not talking about an intensity limit where Kerr Lensing is a factor. I know that high intensity lasers are able to burn a hole through glass. My question is about a volume limit.

Example: The cubic centimeter of glass can process one low intensity red laser. What if we add 40 low intensity green lasers and 40 low intensity blue lasers. Will we notice any change to the red beam?

Question: Is there a limit to the amount of visible light a given volume of glass can transmit?

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    $\begingroup$ "The glass does something that enables light to pass." Not sure what you mean by that. $\endgroup$ – noah Mar 23 at 14:31
  • $\begingroup$ The glass lets light pass through. What's unclear about it? $\endgroup$ – Winston Mar 23 at 14:33
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    $\begingroup$ The "glass does something" part. It implies some active role of the glass, where you say "lets pass", which is a passive role. $\endgroup$ – noah Mar 23 at 14:34
  • $\begingroup$ @Lambda: that's an interesting question. Actually I would have prefered you did not add other colors (blue, green) and just asked how much red light could be used, because different colors just make your question more complicated. But anyway I hope someone gives a good answer to your question. $\endgroup$ – Winston Mar 23 at 14:36
  • $\begingroup$ @noah The way light finds its way through a medium is often debated. The marching band, the emission-remission, hypothesis among others can be found in textbooks and on forums. I purposely chose to personify glass to emphasize that the glass itself plays a role in the transmission of the light. When light is incident on its surface the glass reacts. Without this reaction transmission is not possible. This my be a new way of looking at the process, but I don’t think it is incorrect. The glass reacts to the light. Do you disagree? Isn’t this reaction a property of the glass? $\endgroup$ – Lambda Mar 23 at 15:25
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What you are talking about is a phenomenon called Reverse saturable absorption and it is a non-linear effect that some materials show (for example, see https://aip.scitation.org/doi/full/10.1063/1.2990056). Typically standard glass doesn't have this behavior.

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  • $\begingroup$ So a piece of glass can withstand an infinite amount of, say, red light? $\endgroup$ – Winston Mar 23 at 14:39
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    $\begingroup$ @Exocytosis No, with high enough light intensities any material (glass included) can be destroyed. However, the OP is already aware of that and he's asking a different question. The core of his question is "Is the transmissivity of glass a function of the transmitted intensity?" For intensities below the ablation threshold and for standard glass the answer is no. $\endgroup$ – Alessandro Zunino Mar 23 at 17:59
  • $\begingroup$ Ok I did not realize the question was about something else but thank you for the answer. I feel I am going to ask a new question regarding just that. $\endgroup$ – Winston Mar 25 at 8:11

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