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Most typically this is due to diffusion of optically-induced excitation away from the initial point of excitation. A simple example is thermal nonlinearities, observed when thermal heating due to absorption of laser power spreads to adjacent areas, effecting the whole beam, not must the most intense parts of the beam. This was observed in increasing absorption in ZnSe waveguides, which exhibited optical bistability, which could not have occurred without the non-local nonlinearity (Kim, 1987). Most often, thermal nonlinearities cause blooming – in which a powerful beam spreads out (“blooms”) because heating lowers the refractive index where the absorption of light is the strongest (in the center of the beam) – acting as a negative lens (Smith, 1977).

In difference-frequency generation, it can be considered that both the pump beam and an intense idler beam mix create the signal beam. In parametric generation, the idler signal builds up from noise and feeds the signal beam with a gain per unit length. This process is enhanced by providing a cavity for the signal beam, in which case it has a threshold and becomes an optical parametric oscillator (OPO). These processes are particularly important to reach wavelengths in the mid-infrared. The mixing of an anti-Stokes Raman wave with the laser beam and a Stokes wave is another three-wave mixing process.

The SBS phase conjugate mirror is the simplest means to create phaseconjugation and is suitable for high power/energy laser systems. One problem needing correction by this means is thermal lensing caused by inefficient optical pumping of Nd:YAG lasers (Kovalev, 2005). Phase conjugate mirrors are excellent for beam combining, although SBS requires the multiple lasers to be within the Brillouin gain linewidth. SBS phase conjugation is appropriate for combining beams from an amplifier array (Bowers, 1997).

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