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August 29, 2005

Femtosecond Laser Amplifier System

A state-of-the-art femtosecond laser amplifier system. Although the pulse energies from this laser are modest (on the order of millijoules) and the size relatively small, the laser system crams all of the energy into a tiny 20-femtosecond pulse. The result is a peak power close to a terawatt--roughly the continuous electrical generating capacity of the U.S.. The amplifier system allows the researchers to generate coherent EUV (extreme-ultraviolet wavelength) beams by focusing the laser into a hollow fiber called a waveguide. The green light in the picture comes from the pump lasers that are used to amplify the femtosecond pulses to the terawatt level. [One of 5 related images. See Next Image.]

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A National Science Foundation (NSF)-supported research team from the University of Colorado's Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrophysics (JILA) have created an extreme-ultraviolet, laser-like beam capable of producing tightly focused light in a region of the electromagnetic spectrum not previously accessible to scientists. The process combines concepts from electromagnetic radiation research and fiber optics.

EUV wavelengths--between 1 and 100 times shorter than visible light waves--allow researchers to "see" tiny features and carve miniature patterns with applications in such fields as microscopy, lithography and nanotechnology.

The achievement is based on a new structure called a "waveguide," a hollow glass tube with internal humps that coax light waves into traveling along at the same speed and help the waves reinforce each other.

These findings were reported in the Jan. 2, 2003, issue of the journal Nature. The research was principally supported by NSF, with additional funds from the Department of Energy. For further information about the research, see NSF Press Release 03-01. (Year of image: 2002)

Credit: Courtesy University of Colorado; National Science Foundation

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