Saturday, December 06, 2008

Direct diode-pumped laser produces terawatt powers

A team of researchers from Germany has published details of what it believes is the first direct diode-pumped laser to produce terawatt peak powers. The system relies on a ytterbium-doped calcium fluoride (Yb:CaF2) crystal to amplify femtosecond pulses to the terawatt level, a milestone of particular interest to the laser fusion community (Optics Letters 33 2770).

Alternative ways of reaching the terawatt regime are high-energy Nd:glass or short-pulse Ti:Sapphire laser systems, although both of these methods rely on mature flash-lamp technology.

The heart of the system is a ten-pass amplifier based on Yb:CaF2, which is pumped by two diode laser stacks emitting at 940 nm. The amplifier itself is seeded by either a two-stage chirped pulse Yb:glass MOPA (which the team refers to as the pre-amplifiers of POLARIS or the POLARIS front end) or a Q-switched nanosecond Yb:YAG MOPA.

The team produced 192 femtosecond pulses with a pulse energy of 197 mJ (corresponding to a peak power of 1 TW) using the POLARIS front end. It was also able to amplify nanosecond pulses from the Q-switched MOPA to the joule level.

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