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It is shown that conventional one-photon and two-photon absorption processes can be made subject to nonlinear optical control, in each case significantly modifying the efficiency of absorption, through the effect of a secondary, off-resonant stimulus laser beam. The mechanistic origin of these laser-modified absorption processes, in which the stimulus beam emerges unchanged, is traced to higher-order terms in standard perturbation treatments. These normally insignificant terms become unusually prominent when the secondary optical stimulus is moderately intense. Employing a quantum formulation, the effects of the stimulus beam on one-photon and two-photon absorption are analyzed, and calculations are performed to determine the degree of absorption enhancement, and the form of spectral manifestation, under various laser intensities. The implications of differences in selection rules are also considered and exemplified, leading to the identification of dark states that can be populated as a result of laser-modified absorption. Attention is also drawn to the possibility of quantum nondemolition measurements, based on such a form of optical nonlinearity.
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