Saturated absorption: instanteneous, or does it produce lasting effects?

  1. In terms of saturated absorption of EM waves, is the following correct?:

    The material only has so many atoms that can absorb photons, so if there are more photons that there are atoms, the atoms cannot absorb all the photons, and thus a certain percentage of the photons pass through.

    OR alternatively is it that all the atoms becomes excited, and the time it takes to re-emit the photons increases, such that SUBSEQUENT application of photons results in less absorption.


    Additional details:

    If the first is correct, that there aren't enough atoms to absorb every photon, then could one not decrease the intensity of light required to reach saturated absorption in a material by decreasing the number of atoms (in the wave's path) rather than increasing the intensity of the EM wave?
     
  2. jcsd
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