Improvements to the original NCAR/NSF Raman-shifted Eye-safe Aerosol Lidar (REAL) made between 2008 and 2013 are described. They are aimed mainly at optimizing and stabilizing the performance of the system for long-term, unattended, network-controlled, remote monitoring of the horizontal vector wind field and boundary layer height, and observing atmospheric boundary layer phenomena such as fine-scale waves and density current fronts. In addition, we have improved the polarization purity of the transmitted laser radiation and studied in the laboratory the effect of the beam-steering unit mirrors on the transmitted polarization as part of a longer-term effort to make absolute polarization measurements of aerosols and clouds.
The polarization lidar technique requires that the transmitted laser beam in the atmosphere is linearly polarized so that a depolarization ratio from hydrometeors and aerosol particles can be detected. This is easily achieved in vertically
pointing lidars used to study clouds. However, in scanning lidars, which are of interest for wind and pollution studies,
stand-off detection and biodefense, the state of polarization of the laser beam is modified upon reflection by the mirrors of the scanner. We study experimentally the effect of a two-mirror scanner, or beam steering unit (BSU), on the polarization state of a linearly polarized beam at 1.54 micron wavelength. We built a miniature BSU in the lab and used a polarimeter to map the state of polarization (SOP) for all combinations of azimuth-elevation angles. We found that the linear polarization is preserved for a horizontal scan (elevation angle is 0°) but it rotates as a function of azimuth angle. There are a few more pointing directions in which the SOP is linear. Overall, the transmit beam is elliptically polarized for a non-zero elevation angle. The ellipticity and orientation of the ellipses is not constant. However, we found a period of repeatability of 180° in both azimuth and elevation angles. When comparing two different coatings, we note that the ellipticity is a function of the type of coating. We propose a method to eliminate the induced ellipticity by the BSU mirrors for all scan directions by means of altering the incident SOP on the BSU.
Three lidar systems are currently in development at University of Hohenheim. A water vapor lidar based on the differential absorption lidar (DIAL) technology working near 815 or 935 nm, a temperature and aerosol lidar employing the rotational Raman technique at 355 nm, and an aerosol lidar working with eye-safe laser radiation near 1.5 μm. The transmitters of these three systems are based on an injection-seeded, diode laser pumped Nd:YAG laser with an average power of 100 W at 1064 nm and a repetition rate of 250 Hz. This laser emits a nearly Gaussian-shaped beam which permits frequency-doubling and tripling with high efficiencies. The frequency-doubled 532-nm radiation is employed for pumping a Ti:Sapphire ring-resonator which will be used for DIAL water vapor measurements. In a second branch, a Cr4+:YAG crystal is pumped with the 1064-nm radiation to reach 1400 to 1500 nm for eye-safe monitoring of aerosol particles and clouds. The 532 and 1064 nm radiation are also used for backscatter lidar observations. Frequency tripling gives 355-nm radiation for measurements of temperature with the rotational Raman technique and particle extinction and particle backscattering coefficients in the UV. High transmitter power and effective use of the received signals will allow scanning operation of these three lidar systems. The lidar transmitters and detectors are designed as modules which can be combined for simultaneous measurements with one scanning telescope unit in a ground-based mobile container. Alternatively, they can be connected to different Nd:YAG pump lasers and to telescope units on separate platforms.