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A semiconductor injection-switched high-pressure sub-10-picosecond carbon dioxide laser amplifier Hughes, Michael Kon Yew

Abstract

A multiatmospheric-pressure-broadened CO₂ laser amplifier was constructed to amplify sub-10-picosecond pulses generated with semiconductor switching. High-intensity, mid-infrared, amplified pulses have many applications: especially in fields such as non-linear optics, laser-plasma interaction, and laser particle acceleration. The injected pulses are produced by exciting GaAs (or an engineered, fast-recombination time semiconductor) with an ultrafast visible laser pulse to induce transient free carriers with sufficient density to reflect a co-incident hybrid- CO₂ laser pulse. The short pulse is injected directly into the regenerative amplifier cavity from an intra-cavity semiconductor switch. The CO₂-gas-mix amplifier is operated at 1.24 MPa which is sufficient to collisionally broaden the individual rotational spectral lines so that they merge to produce a gain spectrum wide enough to support pulses less than 10 ps long. After sufficient amplification, the pulse is switched out with another semiconductor switch pumped with a synchronized visible-laser pulse. This system is demonstrated and analysed spectrally and temporally. The pulse-train spectral analysis is done for a GaAs-GaAs double-switch arrangement using a standard spectrometer and two HgCdTe detectors; one of which is used for a reference signal. An infrared autocorrelator was designed and constructed to temporally analyse the pulse trains emerging from the amplifier. Interpretation of the results was aided by the development of a computer model for short-pulse amplification which incorporated saturation effects, rotational- and vibrational-mode energy redistribution between pulse round trips, and the gain enhancement due to one sequence band. The results show that a sub-10-picosecond pulse is injected into the cavity and that it is amplified with some trailing pulses at 18 ps intervals generated by coherent effects. The energy level reached, estimated through modelling, was >100 mJ/cm².

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