Ultrashort pulsed mode-locked lasers with exceptional performance qualities (e.g. short temporal widths or high peak powers) are desired for applications ranging from biomedical imaging to materials processing. Despite rapid progress in source development, evidence suggests that performance limits anticipated theoretically have not yet been reached. In this talk, we review recent progress and help resolve the discrepancy by presenting a limit to mode-locked laser performance based on the route taken to reach the desired steady-state pulse solution instead of on the pulse solution itself. Furthermore, we introduce an iteratively seeded method of mode-locking that allows this limit to be surmounted.
We presented a broadly tunable, power scalable, multi-line, ultrafast source. The source is based on combining principles of pulse division with the phenomenon of the soliton self-frequency shift. By using this system, interferometric pulse recombination is demonstrated showing that the source can decouple the generally limiting relationship between output power and center wavelength in soliton self-frequency shift based optical sources. Broadly tunable multi-color soliton self-frequency shifted pulses are experimentally demonstrated. Simultaneous dual-polarization second harmonic generation was performed with the source, demonstrating one novel imaging methodology that the source can enable.