In a recent study published in Communications Physics, an international team of researchers led by the University of Strathclyde have made strides in reducing the size of ultra-high power lasers by manipulating light through the use of laser-driven ‘mirrors’. This study holds the potential to lead to ultra-short pulse, ultra-high-power, and small footprint laser systems.
"High-power lasers are tools that enable research in many areas of medicine, biology, material sciences, chemistry and physics,” says Dr. Dino Jaroszynski, who is a professor in the Department of Physics at the University of Strathclyde, and a co-author on the study. “Making high-power lasers more widely available would transform the way science is done; a university could have these tools in a single room, on a tabletop, for a reasonable price.”
For the study, the researchers successfully utilized counter-propagating laser beams to create layered plasma mirrors. The mirror itself is present for only a few picoseconds, or less than 1/100,000,000,000th of a second, but even that brief time allows it to manipulate the very intense laser light.
"This new way of producing transient robust plasma mirrors could revolutionize accelerators and light sources, as it would make them very compact and capable of producing ultra-short duration ultra-intense pulses of light, that are much shorter than can be produced easily by any other means,” says Dr Gregory Vieux, who is a research associate at the University of Strathclyde, and lead author of the study. "Plasma can withstand intensities up to 1018 watts per square centimeter, which exceeds the threshold for damage of conventional optics by four or five orders of magnitude. This will allow the size of optical elements to be reduced by two or three orders of magnitude, shrinking meter-sized optics to millimeters or centimeters."
Sources: Communications Physics, University of Strathclyde Glascow,
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