Tuesday, 20 January 2015
Destructive nonlinear processes have limited the useful input power to a few megawatts for supercontinuum generation in bulk material. Consequently, reliable high-power, high-pulse-energy supercontinuum in condensed media has not been realized. Here, we describe an intense femtosecond supercontinuum generated in a solid medium with pulse energy and mode quality that approach those generated in the gas phase while preserving the advantages of a condensed medium of being compact, simple to operate, and highly reproducible. This is achieved by strategically placing several thin solid plates at or near the focused waist of a high-power laser pulse. The thickness of each plate is such that the optical pulse exits the plate before undesirable effects begin to take hold of the pulse. With this approach, we have obtained pulses that have an octave-spanning spectrum that covers from 450 to 980 nm at the −20 dB intensity level while converting as much as 54% of the input pulse energy to the continuum. The highest pulse energy obtained to date is 76 μJ, nearly two orders of magnitude greater than previously reported values. The transverse mode of the pulse has a M2 of 1.25. Frequency-resolved optical grating and spectral interferometric measurements indicate that the pulse is phase coherent and could be compressed to a few femtoseconds. Furthermore, the multiple-plates approach is shown to be extremely flexible and versatile. It is applicable for a broad range of input powers and materials. The generated continuum is stable and robust. Thus, multiple-plate generated femtosecond continuum could be a promising new light source in ultrafast science and extreme nonlinear optics applications.