Spatio-temporal couplings (STC) of laser beams are ubiquitous in ultrafast optics. In the femtosecond range, chirped-pulse amplification (CPA), the key technology of amplified ultrashort pulses, relies on the use of massive STCs induced at different locations in laser systems (for instance by gratings or prisms), which should all eventually perfectly cancel out at the laser output. Residual STCs, for example resulting from imperfect compensation, decrease the peak intensity at focus by increasing both the focal spot size and the pulse duration. This is particularly detrimental for ultrahigh-intensity (UHI) lasers, which aim for the highest possible peak intensities. However, it is precisely with these lasers that such uncontrolled defects are most likely to occur, due to the complexity of these systems and the large diameters of the output beams.
Accurately measuring STCs is thus essential in ultrafast optics. Significant progress has been made in the last decade, and several techniques are now available for the partial or complete spatiotemporal characterization of near-visible femtosecond laser beams. However, none of these has yet been applied to UHI femtosecond lasers, due to the difficulty of handling these large and powerful beams. As a result, all UHI lasers are currently characterized under the unjustified and unverified assumption of the absence of STCs, using separate measurements in space and time.
This situation is now becoming a major bottleneck for the development of UHI lasers and their applications. In particular, the optimal and reliable operation of PW-class lasers now available or under construction all around the world will simply not be possible without a proper spatiotemporal metrology. In this talk, we present the first complete spatiotemporal experimental reconstruction of the field E(t,r) for a 100 TW peak-power laser, obtained using self-referenced spatially-resolved Fourier transform spectroscopy [1,2], and thus reveal the spatiotemporal distortions that can affect such beams . This new measurement capability opens the way to in-depth characterization and optimization of ultra-intense lasers and ultimately to the advanced control of relativistic motion of matter with femtosecond laser beams structured in space–time.
Fabien Quéré, "New advanced characterization tools for PW-class lasers (Conference Presentation)," Proc. SPIE 10241, Research Using Extreme Light: Entering New Frontiers with Petawatt-Class Lasers III, 102410S (Presented at SPIE Optics + Optoelectronics: April 25, 2017; Published: 29 June 2017); https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2270954.5464857816001.
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