If a photon of the proper energy is incident on an ion or a molecule that is already in an excited state, the ion or molecule may be stimulated to emit a photon in the same direction as the incident photon. This process, called stimulated emission, is used in the operation of lasers and optical amplifiers.

stimulated emission

Stimulated emission differs from spontaneous emission (fluorescence). Spontaneous emission does not require a stimulating photon and the light from spontaneous emission can be emitted in any direction and with a time constant that depends on the properties of the ion.

See also: Fluorescence, STED microscopy.

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