Ultrafast Optics and Petawatt Laser Systems

Course Description

Please note: The course descriptions and instructors listed below are NOT final, it is possible that circumstances beyond our control could necessitate alterations.

Prerequisites: There are no formal prerequisites but a familiarity with laser fundamentals and physical optics will be helpful.

2024: Offered remotely from 10 a.m.-1 p.m.

June 17, Monday

Introduction to ultrafast optics and petawatt lasers; Leon Waxer (LLN L)

A brief overview of the international effort to generate ultrahigh peak irradiances for frontier physics experiments and applications. Given this motivation, an introduction to lasers that primarily focuses on broadband gain, dispersion, cavity modes, and ultrashort pulse generation will be presented. Finally, the concepts of phase velocity, group velocity, higher order spectral phase and the relationship between pulse spectra and temporal pulse shape will be introduced.

June 18, Tuesday

Chirped pulse amplification; Leon Waxer (LLN L)

The Nobel Prize winning concept of CPA allows one to amplify ultrafast laser pulses to kilojoule-level energies. This lecture will introduce the basic building blocks of a CPA system with a detailed look at pulse stretching and compression. Finally, the critical parameters required to recompress a pulse to near its original pulse duration will be considered.

June 19, Wednesday

Broadband laser amplifiers; Leon Waxer (LLNL)

The first half of this lecture will review the properties of broadband gain materials that are suitable for generating kilojoule-class energies including an examination of the factors that limit overall performance. The second half of the lecture will introduce optical parametric amplifiers as an alternative to traditional laser amplifiers for generating ultrahigh peak powers.

June 20, Thursday

Ultrafast pulse characterization; Leon Waxer (LLNL)

A review of techniques to characterize optical pulses with durations that are much shorter than the response time of traditional electronics will be presented. Topics to be covered include auto-correlation, FROG, SPIDER, and considerations for making these measurements on large, complex systems.

June 21, Friday

System design considerations; Leon Waxer (LLNL)

The course will conclude with an investigation of key system parameters that determine ultimate performance. This will include damage limits, wavefront measurement and correction, temporal contrast enhancement, shot rate, and laser diagnostic design. Existing state-of-the art systems will be used as examples of various approaches to solving challenges in building these systems.