Synchrotrons have for decades provided invaluable sources of soft X-rays, the application of which has led to significant progress in many areas of science and technology. But future applications of soft X-rays—in structural biology, for example—anticipate the need for pulses with much shorter duration (femtoseconds) and much higher energy (millijoules) than those delivered by synchrotrons. Soft X-ray free-electron lasers1 should fulfil these requirements but will be limited in number; the pressure on beamtime is therefore likely to be considerable. Laser-driven soft X-ray sources offer a comparatively inexpensive and widely available alternative, but have encountered practical bottlenecks in the quest for high intensities. Here we establish and characterize a soft X-ray laser chain that shows how these bottlenecks can in principle be overcome. By combining the high optical quality available from high-harmonic laser sources (as a seed beam) with a highly energetic soft X-ray laser plasma amplifier, we produce a tabletop soft X-ray femtosecond laser operating at 10 Hz and exhibiting full saturation, high energy, high coherence and full polarization. This technique should be readily applicable on all existing laser-driven soft X-ray facilities.
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We thank J. L. Charles for technical support. T.M. was supported by the Marie Curie Individual Fellowship of the European Commission.
The authors declare that they have no competing financial interests.
The choice of the Optical Field Ionisation amplifier among all the x-ray lasers developed up to now has been done according to several precise criteria, discussed in this text. (DOC 26 kb)
This figure shows the amplification law as measured with plasma lenghts ranging from 0 up to 6 mm. Comparison between the ASE and the seeded x-ray laser intensities is shown. (DOC 161 kb)
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Journal of Physics B: Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics (2019)
IEEE Journal of Selected Topics in Quantum Electronics (2019)
Reviews of Modern Physics (2019)
Optics Express (2019)
Applied Physics B (2019)