We create optical precursors by propagating a step-modulated optical pulse through a linear resonant dielectric absorber. The field emerging from the dielectric consists of a several-nanosecond-long spike with near 100% transmission, which decays to a constant value expected from Beer’s law. This high transmission spike might be useful for imaging applications requiring penetrating optical radiation. We compare our observations to two different theories, revealing that the spike consists of both the Sommerfeld and Brillouin precursors.
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