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Nonlinear refraction in rhodamine-B (Rh-B) organic dye solution at 510.6 nm was studied using the Z-scan technique with 40 ns laser pulses from a copper vapor laser. The observed nonlinear refraction is of thermal origin resulting from nonradiative energy transfer from the dye molecules to the solvent molecules and is therefore strongly dependent on the thermal properties of the solvent. Using this scheme, the thermal properties of an aqueous dye solution were compared, with that using water-surfactant mixture as the solvent. © 2000 American Institute of Physics.