After amplification, the spread of colors in time is simply reversed, using the same devices, now arranged so that the colors that were initially delayed arrive back at the same time as the early colors. This process recompresses the pulse to nearly the same short duration as the initial pulse from the mode-locked laser, but with the high energy that a MOPA chain can supply. This demonstration led to an explosive growth in the peak power available from lasers in the laboratory and an incredible proliferation of high-power lasers into research labs around the world.
The scientific drive for building these high-power CPA lasers has been a desire to study the physics of light interactions with matter at higher and higher intensity. The intensity that can be created with modern multiterawatt CPA lasers is remarkable: When focused to a spot of a few micrometers, the intensity of the laser pulse exceeds the intensity of sunlight on the Earth by 18 or 19 orders of magnitude. What happens to matter in light of this intensity is a major scientific question.
Also interesting are the plasmas clouds of ionized gas at very high temperatures that can be created when such an intense laser pulse is focused into a gas or onto a solid. Plasmas with temperatures of millions of degrees Celsius can be created. These temperatures can potentially be used to spark controlled nuclear fusion in the lab, or can recreate conditions that are normally found only in the depths of enigmatic astrophysical objects such as brown dwarfs or supernovae. Multiterawatt, ultrashort-pulse lasers were at first all constructed of amplifiers using Nd:glass.
But because Ti:sapphire can amplify light in a very broad band of frequencies, it was soon exploited to create CPA lasers, which could amplify pulses that are then recompressed to durations as short as 30 femtoseconds. Since the first implementation of Ti:sapphire in CPA lasers at laboratories at the University of Michigan and Stanford University around , Ti:sapphire has become by far the most prevalent material for high-peak-power CPA lasers.
They are now used worldwide for research not only in strong-field atomic physics and high-intensity plasma physics, but also in ultrafast chemistry and a host of applications as diverse as biological imaging and precision machining.
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Despite the prevalence of Ti:sapphire in the widespread proliferation of CPA lasers, Nd:glass remained the amplifier material that could be used to create the highest laser powers. Using a beamline of the Nd:glass Nova laser, the team used CPA to produce laser pulses with joules of energy recompressed to a duration of about femtoseconds. This outcome yielded for the first time peak powers exceeding 1 petawatt, a quadrillion watts.
Laser power at this level exceeds the power release of any other human-made object including the detonation of a nuclear weapon , and represents a power level 2, times the power output of all the electrical generation plants in the United States. A typical electrical power plant delivers power of 1 to 2 gigawatts.
Figure 8. The petawatt laser at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory was the first to produce over a quadrillion watts of power. To accomplish this, chirped-pulse amplification was performed on the Nova laser and compressed with large diffraction gratings, shown here.
Photo courtesy of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. To compress such a pulse, for example, diffraction gratings nearly 1 meter in size were needed—almost 10 times the size of gratings that were available at that time. This required a massive development effort in grating technology at LLNL that has since spun off many applications. The focused intensity of the Petawatt laser neared 10 21 watts per square centimeter, an unprecedented light intensity that led to a range of interesting discoveries, for instance about nuclear fusion and the fundamental properties of matter, while the Livermore Petawatt laser operated through the late s.
The past 10 years have seen an improvement on the initial technology of the LLNL petawatt laser and have led to the construction of a number of petawatt-class lasers worldwide. These include lasers with powers above 1 petawatt at the Vulcan laser facility in England and our development of the Texas Petawatt laser at the University of Texas at Austin.
New technology has improved the quality of lasers at this power level and has shortened the compressed pulse in a Nd:glass CPA laser to durations near femtoseconds, four times shorter than the first ones at LLNL and 10 times shorter than the first CPA laser.
Figure 9. Titanium-doped sapphire Ti:sapphire has become a widely used material in tabletop chirped-pulse amplification CPA lasers. The Hercules Ti:sapphire-based CPA laser at the University of Michigan produces multiple terawatts of power and laser pulses with a duration down to 30 femtoseconds. Photograph courtesy of Victor Yanovsky, University of Michigan. These petawatt-laser systems are used in a host of exciting research areas, such as in the acceleration of protons for potential use in cancer therapy, or the production of electron beams with energies approaching those of modern large-scale particle accelerators.
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Though CPA technology continues to improve, the peak power of lasers since has not risen beyond the 1-petawatt level. This ceiling is likely to change in the coming decade. The development of CPA technology both with Ti:sapphire and Nd:glass, which allows amplification of high-energy pulses with durations below femtoseconds, has made the prospect of lasers with far greater peak powers likely.
Plans to design and build a laser facility with a power of petawatts are advancing in Europe at a rapid pace, under a European Union—supported program known as the Extreme Light Infrastructure project. Plans to develop an exawatt laser 1, petawatts, or one quintillion watts , are also forming in this country.
The U. The science that can be explored with such remarkably powerful machines has yet to be fully assessed. But as the scientific case for these exawatt-class systems grows in the coming years, it is likely that the stunning rise in laser-pulse peak power made possible by that first, modest ruby laser 50 years ago will continue. View the discussion thread. Skip to main content.
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Zetawatt-exawatt lasers and applications in ultrastrong-field physics. Figure 5.
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Figure 6. Figure 7. Conclusions We designed and produced a low-cost integrated CMOS pulse generator using a nm microelectronic process technique. Electronic supplementary material Supplementary Information K, pdf. Author Contributions H. Notes Competing Interests The authors declare that they have no competing interests. Footnotes Shaoqiang Chen and Shengxi Diao contributed equally to this work.
Electronic supplementary material Supplementary information accompanies this paper at doi Contributor Information Shaoqiang Chen, Email: nc. References 1.
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