Ultra-short pulse lasers are dominated by solid-state technology, which typically operates in the near-infrared. Efforts to extend this technology to longer wavelengths are meeting with some success, but the trend remains that longer wavelengths correlate with greatly reduced power. The carbon dioxide (CO2) laser is capable of delivering high energy, 10 micron wavelength pulses, but the gain structure makes operating in the ultra-short pulse regime difficult. The Naval Research Laboratory and Air Force Research Laboratory are developing a novel CO2 laser designed to deliver ~1 Joule, ~1 picosecond pulses, from a compact gain volume (~2x2x80 cm). The design is based on injection seeding an unstable resonator, in order to achieve high energy extraction efficiency, and to take advantage of power broadening. The unstable resonator is seeded by a solid state front end, pumped by a custom built titanium sapphire laser matched to the CO2 laser bandwidth. In order to access a broader range of mid infrared wavelengths using CO2 lasers, one must consider nonlinear frequency multiplication, which is non-trivial due to the bandwidth of the 10 micron radiation.
One application of ultrashort pulse filamentation is the coupling of external electric fields to filament plasmas and guiding of high-voltage discharges. However, the full physics of the guiding mechanism is still in question. Several models have been presented and explanations have been suggested to capture the full physics of the discharge event. For the first time, measurements of the electric field dynamics between two electrodes during filament-guided discharges are presented here, to the best of our knowledge. The electric field dynamics show an exponential growth region, a plateau, followed by a sharp drop off coinciding with the discharge event. We believe these results will ultimately answer the questions regarding the guiding mechanism.