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Laser Technology

The IZEST strategy will explore a number of new methods for laser amplification using conventional and novel technology. There are a number of distinct regimes of repetition rate, peak power, average power and luminosity of laser drivers for fundamental and applied research. A significant infrastructure already exists in the form of short pulsed TW-PW lasers complemented by large energy facilities such as the NIF and the LMJ. Coming on-line within the decade are large user facilities including the ELI pillars, PETAL, APOLLON and EXCELS which will approach the exawatt regime. Critically, IZEST is committed to developing strategies for implementing novel compression technology within this infrastructure in order to supersede their inherent laser power to potentially zettawatt levels.

As an example, a principle project C3 in IZEST involves the unification of three laser compression techniques: Chirped Pulse Amplification (CPA), Optical Parametric Chirped Pulse Amplification (OPCPA) and Plasma Compression (PC) using Raman and/or Brillouin Amplification. This amplification chain is dubbed Cascaded Conversion Compression (C3) and has the capability to compress nanosecond laser pulses in the kilojoule to megajoule range down to femtosecond pulses with an excellent efficiency so that pulses with exawatt-and-beyond peak power are predicted. The very small beam size (≈cm) together with the low repetition rate laser system will allow for the use of inexpensive, disposable, plasma-based optics that offers the promise of focusing with f-numbers not achievable with conventional optics to a spot size on the order of the laser wavelength, as described in the C3 section. As the intensities approach the Schwinger value, it opens up new possibilities in fundamental physics. This C3 approach could be implemented at current large-scale facilities and open the way to zettawatt level pulses. Research on the physics of plasma-based amplification has been ongoing and recent results regarding stimulated Brillouin back-scattering and resonant backward Raman amplification can be found in the C3 Fuchs section page 8.

Another new compression technique termed “Thin-Film Compression” is presented for the first time in Wheeler ‘s section. Complementing these approaches is the development of a high-repetition and high efficiency rate laser system based on the CAN concept. Here, diode pumping of tens optical fibers together with novel phase recombination and CPA technology is heralding an exciting future for practical laser-based applications. This is discussed in Chanteloup’s section page 11.

Figure 3: Schematic  Representation of C3 amplification chain.