We will review recent progress in the development of high repetition, high average power rate soft x-ray lasers at 10-20 nm wavelength at Colorado State University, and the compact diode- pumped solid state lasers that drive them. The latter includes the development of a 1 J picosecond laser capable of operating at 500 Hz repetition rate. Results that demonstrate soft x-ray laser operation at the highest repetition rate reported to date: 400 Hz, and prospects of the use of these lasers in applications are discussed.
We report the demonstration of a chirped pulse amplification laser system that produces 1.5 J pulses at 0.5 kHz repetition rate and 0.75 kW average power. These pulses are subsequently compressed resulting 1 J, ~5 ps duration pulses at 500 Hz repetition rate. The 8-pass main amplifier consists of two diode-pumped, cryogenic-temperature Yb:YAG active mirrors cooled by a thermally efficient, high capacity cryogenic-cooling system. This amplifier operates with an opticalto- optical efficiency of 37%. The amplified pulses have excellent beam quality with a measured M<sup>2</sup> factor of ~ 1.3. Over 30 minutes of continuous operation, we measured a shot-to-shot pulse energy fluctuation of only 0.75% RMS over the nearly 1 million shots fired. This laser was employed to make the first demonstration of a compact, plasma-based EUV/soft x-ray laser operating at a repletion rate of 400 Hz. In this proof-of-principle demonstration, shaped 1 J pulses of picosecond duration were focused onto a rotating molybdenum target at grazing incidence. The resulting plasma is collisionally ionized to the Ni-like ionic stage where a large, transient population inversion results in production of bright λ = 18.9 nm laser pulses.
Plasmas emitting near λ=6.7nm are of interest for beyond EUV lithography (BEUVL). We have conducted a comprehensive study of the spectral characteristics, conversion efficiency, and source size of Gd and Tb laser-produced plasmas over a broad range of laser pulsewidths (120ps-4ns) and irradiation intensities (1.4×10<sup>11</sup>-6.1×10<sup>13</sup>W/cm<sup>2</sup>). The data over the entire parameter range was acquired using a single diode-pumped Yb: YAG laser. The angular distribution of the BEUV emission was measured using an array of calibrated energy-monitors, allowing for an accurate estimate of the BEUV yield. A similar conversion efficiency of 0.47% into a 0.6% bandwidth in 2π solid angle was measured for both Gd and Tb plasma.
Our recent progress in the development of high energy / high average power, chirped pulse amplification laser systems based on diode-pumped, cryogenically-cooled Yb:YAG amplifiers is discussed, including the demonstration of a laser that produces 1 Joule, sub-10 picosecond duration, λ = 1.03μm pulses at 500 Hz repetition rate. This compact, all-diodepumped laser combines a mode-locked Yb:KYW oscillator and a water-cooled Yb:YAG preamplifer with two cryogenic power amplification stages to produce 1.5 Joule pulses with high beam quality which are subsequently compressed. This laser system occupies an optical table area of less than 1.5x3m<sup>2</sup>. This laser was employed to pump plasma-based soft x-ray lasers at λ = 10-20nm at repetition rates ≥100 Hz. To accomplish this, temporally-shaped pulses were focused at grazing incidence into a high aspect ratio line focus using cylindrical optics on a high shot capacity rotating metal target. This results in an elongated plasma amplifier that produces microjoule pulses at several narrow-linewidth EUV wavelengths between λ = 109Å and 189Å. The resulting fraction of a milliwatt average powers are the highest reported to date for a compact, coherent source operating at these wavelengths, to the best of our knowledge.
The table-top generation of high average power coherent soft x-ray radiation in a compact set up is of high interest for numerous applications. We have demonstrated the generation of bright soft x-ray laser pulses at 100 Hz repetition rate with record-high average power from compact plasma amplifiers excited by an ultrafast diode-pumped solid state laser. Results of compact λ=18.9nm Ni-like Mo and λ=13.9nm Ni-like Ag lasers operating at 100 Hz repetition rate are discussed.
An experiment was set up to measure the wavefront of an injection-seeded soft x-ray laser based on a solid-target plasma amplifier. The 43rd harmonic signal from a Ti:Sa laser was used to seed a molybdenum plasma amplifier operating in the λ=18.9 nm line of Ni-like Mo. A Hartmann wavefront senor with an accuracy of λ/32 rms at this wavelength was employed to measure the wavefront of both the high harmonics seed and the seeded soft x-ray lasers. A significant improvement in wavefront aberration from 0.51±0.04λ rms to 0.25±0.03λ rms was observed as a function of plasma column length. The variation of wavefront characteristic by the time delay between the injection of the seed and the peak of soft x-ray amplifier pump was studied in this paper.