Research ArticleOPTICS

Multi-watt, multi-octave, mid-infrared femtosecond source

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Science Advances  20 Apr 2018:
Vol. 4, no. 4, eaaq1526
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aaq1526

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Spectroscopy in the wavelength range from 2 to 11 μm (900 to 5000 cm−1) implies a multitude of applications in fundamental physics, chemistry, as well as environmental and life sciences. The related vibrational transitions, which all infrared-active small molecules, the most common functional groups, as well as biomolecules like proteins, lipids, nucleic acids, and carbohydrates exhibit, reveal information about molecular structure and composition. However, light sources and detectors in the mid-infrared have been inferior to those in the visible or near-infrared, in terms of power, bandwidth, and sensitivity, severely limiting the performance of infrared experimental techniques. This article demonstrates the generation of femtosecond radiation with up to 5 W at 4.1 μm and 1.3 W at 8.5 μm, corresponding to an order-of-magnitude average power increase for ultrafast light sources operating at wavelengths longer than 5 μm. The presented concept is based on power-scalable near-infrared lasers emitting at a wavelength near 1 μm, which pump optical parametric amplifiers. In addition, both wavelength tunability and supercontinuum generation are reported, resulting in spectral coverage from 1.6 to 10.2 μm with power densities exceeding state-of-the-art synchrotron sources over the entire range. The flexible frequency conversion scheme is highly attractive for both up-conversion and frequency comb spectroscopy, as well as for a variety of time-domain applications.

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