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Plasma mirrors for ultrahigh-intensity optics

Abstract

Specular reflection is one of the most fundamental processes of optics. At moderate light intensities generated by conventional light sources this process is well understood. But at those capable of being produced by modern ultrahigh-intensity lasers, many new and potentially useful phenomena arise. When a pulse from such a laser hits an optically polished surface, it generates a dense plasma that itself acts as a mirror, known as a plasma mirror (PM). PMs do not just reflect the remainder of the incident beam, but can act as active optical elements. Using a set of three consecutive PMs in different regimes, we significantly improve the temporal contrast of femtosecond pulses, and demonstrate that high-order harmonics of the laser frequency can be generated through two distinct mechanisms. A better understanding of these processes should aid the development of laser-driven attosecond sources for use in fields from materials science to molecular biology.

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Figure 1: Temporal profile of the laser pulses delivered by a 10 TW, 60 fs laser system, in logarithmic scale, with and without the DPM.
Figure 2: Spatial profile of the harmonic extreme-ultraviolet beam.
Figure 3: Schematic diagrams of different stages of the coherent wake emission process.
Figure 4: Harmonic spectra from plasma mirrors.
Figure 5: Relativistic oscillating mirror mechanism.
Figure 6: Harmonic spectrum dependency on the laser intensity.

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Acknowledgements

Financial support from the Conseil Général de l’Essonne (ASTRE program) is acknowledged.

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Correspondence to F. Quéré.

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Thaury, C., Quéré, F., Geindre, JP. et al. Plasma mirrors for ultrahigh-intensity optics. Nature Phys 3, 424–429 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1038/nphys595

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