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Externally refuelled optical filaments


Plasma channels produced in air through femtosecond laser filamentation1,2,3,4 hold great promise for a number of applications, including remote sensing5, attosecond physics6,7 and spectroscopy8, channelling microwaves9,10,11,12 and lightning protection13. In such settings, extended filaments are desirable, yet their longitudinal span is limited by dissipative processes. Although various techniques aiming to prolong this process have been explored, the substantial extension of optical filaments remains a challenge14,15,16,17,18,19,20,21. Here, we experimentally demonstrate that the natural range of a plasma column can be enhanced by at least an order of magnitude when the filament is prudently accompanied by an auxiliary beam. In this arrangement, the secondary low-intensity ‘dressing’ beam propagates linearly and acts as a distributed energy reservoir22, continuously refuelling the optical filament. Our approach offers an efficient and viable route towards the generation of extended light strings in air without inducing premature wave collapse or an undesirable beam break-up into multiple filaments2.

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Figure 1: A dressed filament considerably protracts the longevity of an optical filament.
Figure 2: Experimental investigation of dressed optical filaments.
Figure 4: Dressed optical filaments in long-range settings.
Figure 3: Plasma density generated by the application of a Bessel beam for different values of laser energy.

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This work was supported by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR; grants FA9550-10-1-056 and FA9550-12-1-0143) and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA; grant HDTRA 1-14-1-0009).

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Authors and Affiliations



M.S.M., M.K. and D.N.C. suggested the idea of dressed filaments. M.S.M., M.-A.M. and D.N.C. produced the manuscript, figures and accompanying Supplementary Information. M.S.M. explored the theoretical aspects of the paper and simulated the process using M.K.'s code. M.S., W.C., J.V.M. and P.P. carried out the experiments reported in this study.

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Correspondence to Demetrios N. Christodoulides.

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Scheller, M., Mills, M., Miri, MA. et al. Externally refuelled optical filaments. Nature Photon 8, 297–301 (2014).

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