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Mid-infrared frequency combs

This Review discusses the emerging field of mid-infrared frequency comb generation, including technologies based on novel laser gain media, nonlinear frequency conversion and microresonators, as well as the applications of these combs in precision spectroscopy and direct frequency comb spectroscopy.


Laser frequency combs are coherent light sources that emit a broad spectrum of discrete, evenly spaced narrow lines whose absolute frequency can be measured to within the accuracy of an atomic clock. Their development in the near-infrared and visible domains has revolutionized frequency metrology while also providing numerous unexpected opportunities in other fields such as astronomy and attosecond science. Researchers are now exploring how to extend frequency comb techniques to the mid-infrared spectral region. Versatile mid-infrared frequency comb generators based on novel laser gain media, nonlinear frequency conversion or microresonators promise to significantly expand the applications of frequency combs. In particular, novel approaches to molecular spectroscopy in the 'fingerprint region', with dramatically improved precision, sensitivity, recording time and/or spectral bandwidth may lead to new discoveries in the various fields relevant to molecular science.

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Figure 1: Molecular mid-infrared fingerprints and the principle of the laser frequency comb.
Figure 2: Approaches to frequency comb generation in the mid-infrared.
Figure 3: Spectral coverage of different approaches and materials.
Figure 4: Typical mid-infrared spectra obtained through different approaches.
Figure 5: Frequency comb as a frequency ruler.
Figure 6: Frequency comb Fourier transform spectroscopy.


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T.W.H. and N.P. acknowledge support by the European Associated Laboratory 'European Laboratory for Frequency Comb Spectroscopy' and the Max Planck Foundation. A.S. acknowledges support from a Marie Curie IAPP programme and the Swiss National Science Foundation. A. Amy-Klein, E. Baumann, B. Darquié, P. de Natale, A. Foltynowicz-Matyba, F. Keilmann, T.J. Kippenberg, D. Mazzotti, N.R Newbury, K. Vodopyanov, C.Y. Wang and J.Ye are gratefully acknowledged for providing comments, data and figures.

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Schliesser, A., Picqué, N. & Hänsch, T. Mid-infrared frequency combs. Nature Photon 6, 440–449 (2012).

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