The availability of intense, ultrashort coherent radiation sources in the infrared region of the spectrum is enabling the generation of attosecond X-ray pulses via high-harmonic generation, pump–probe experiments in the ‘molecular fingerprint’ region and opening up the area of relativistic infrared nonlinear optics of plasmas. These applications would benefit from multi-millijoule single-cycle pulses in the mid- to long-wavelength infrared region. Here, we present a new scheme capable of producing tunable relativistically intense, single-cycle infrared pulses from 5 to 14 μm with a 1.7% conversion efficiency based on a photon frequency downshifting scheme that uses a tailored plasma density structure. The carrier-envelope phase of the long-wavelength infrared pulse is locked to that of the drive laser to within a few per cent. Such a versatile tunable infrared source may meet the demands of many cutting-edge applications in strong-field physics and greatly promote their development.

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This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) Grants No. 11425521, No. 11535006, No. 11475101 and No. 11775125, the National Basic Research Program of China No. 2013CBA01501, the Thousand Young Talents Program, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) under award number FA9550-16-1-0139 DEF, the Office of Naval Research (ONR) Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) (4-442521-JC-22891), the US Department of Energy grant DE-SC001006 and the Ministry of Science and Technology of Taiwan under Grant No. MOST-105-2112-M-001-005-M3. The simulations were performed on Sunway TaihuLight.

Author information


  1. Key Laboratory of Particle and Radiation Imaging of Ministry of Education, Department of Engineering Physics, Tsinghua University, Beijing, China

    • Zan Nie
    • , Chih-Hao Pai
    • , Jianfei Hua
    • , Yipeng Wu
    • , Yang Wan
    • , Jie Zhang
    • , Zhi Cheng
    • , Qianqian Su
    • , Shuang Liu
    • , Yue Ma
    • , Xiaonan Ning
    • , Yunxiao He
    •  & Wei Lu
  2. University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA, USA

    • Chaojie Zhang
    • , Fei Li
    • , Warren B. Mori
    •  & Chan Joshi
  3. State Key Laboratory of Low Dimensional Quantum Physics, Department of Physics, Tsinghua University, Beijing, China

    • Wei Lu
  4. IFSA Collaborative Center, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Shanghai, China

    • Wei Lu
  5. Department of Physics, National Central University, Jhongli, Taiwan

    • Hsu-Hsin Chu
    •  & Jyhpyng Wang
  6. Institute of Atomic and Molecular Sciences, Academia Sinica, Taipei, Taiwan

    • Jyhpyng Wang
  7. Department of Physics, National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan

    • Jyhpyng Wang


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Z.N., C.-H.P. and W.L. proposed the concept. Z.N. developed the theoretical model and carried out the simulations. Z.N., C.J., W.L. and C.-H.P. wrote the paper. All authors contributed extensively to the work presented in this paper.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Chih-Hao Pai or Wei Lu.

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