A cavity ring-down system for performing cavity ring-down spectroscopy (CRDS) using optical heterodyne detection of a ring-down wave E.sub.RD during a ring-down phase or a ring-up wave E.sub.RU during a ring up phase. The system sends a local oscillator wave E.sub.LO and a signal wave E.sub.SIGNAL to the cavity, preferably a ring resonator, and derives an interference signal from the combined local oscillator wave E.sub.LO and the ring-down wave E.sub.RD (or ring-up wave E.sub.RU). The local oscillator wave E.sub.LO has a first polarization and the ring-down wave E.sub.RD has a second polarization different from the first polarization. The system has a combining arrangement for combining or overlapping local oscillator wave E.sub.LO and the ring-down wave E.sub.RD at a photodetector, which receives the interference signal and generates a heterodyne current I.sub.H therefrom. Frequency and phase differences between the waves are adjustable.
U.S. GOVERNMENT RIGHTS
This invention was made with U.S. Government support by the Department of Energy and the Air Force under grant numbers DE-FG03-92ER14304 and F49620-97-1-0316, respectively. The U.S. Government has certain rights in this invention.