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Concept: Ultrashort pulse


We demonstrate experimentally ultrafast all-optical switching in subwavelength nonlinear dielectric nanostructures exhibiting localized magnetic Mie resonances. We employ amorphous silicon nanodisks to achieve strong self-modulation of femtosecond pulses with a depth of 60\% at picojoule-per-disk pump energies. In the pump-probe measurements, we reveal that switching in the nanodisks can be governed by pulse-limited 65-fs-long two-photon absorption being enhanced by a factor of 80 with respect to the unstructured silicon film. We also show that undesirable free-carrier effects can be suppressed by a proper spectral positioning of the magnetic resonance, making such a structure the fastest all-optical switch operating at the nanoscale.

Concepts: Photon, Fundamental physics concepts, Nuclear magnetic resonance, Magnetic moment, Capacitor, Resonance, Amorphous silicon, Ultrashort pulse


An important challenge in the field of three-dimensional ultrafast laser processing is to achieve permanent modifications in the bulk of silicon and narrow-gap materials. Recent attempts by increasing the energy of infrared ultrashort pulses have simply failed. Here, we establish that it is because focusing with a maximum numerical aperture of about 1.5 with conventional schemes does not allow overcoming strong nonlinear and plasma effects in the pre-focal region. We circumvent this limitation by exploiting solid-immersion focusing, in analogy to techniques applied in advanced microscopy and lithography. By creating the conditions for an interaction with an extreme numerical aperture near 3 in a perfect spherical sample, repeatable femtosecond optical breakdown and controllable refractive index modifications are achieved inside silicon. This opens the door to the direct writing of three-dimensional monolithic devices for silicon photonics. It also provides perspectives for new strong-field physics and warm-dense-matter plasma experiments.Ultrafast laser processing is a versatile three-dimensional photonic structuring method but it has been limited to wide band gap materials like glasses. Here, Chanal et al. demonstrate direct refractive-index modification in the bulk of silicon by extreme localization of the energy deposition.

Concepts: Optics, Light, Laser, Nonlinear optics, Photonics, Silicon photonics, Ultrashort pulse, Optical autocorrelation


Carbon nanomaterials exhibit novel characteristics including enhanced thermal, electrical, mechanical, and biological properties. Nanodiamonds; first discovered in meteorites are found to be biocompatible, non-toxic and have distinct optical properties. Here we show that nanodiamonds with the size of <5 nm are formed directly from ethanol via 1025 nm femtosecond laser irradiation. The absorption of laser energy by ethanol increased non-linearly above 100 μJ accompanied by a white light continuum arises from fs laser filamentation. At laser energy higher than 300 μJ, emission spectra of C, O and H in the plasma were detected, indicating the dissociation of C2H5OH. Nucleation of the carbon species in the confined plasma within the laser filaments leads to the formation of nanodiamonds. The energy dependence and the roles of the nonlinear phenomenon to the formation of homogeneous nanodiamonds are discussed. This work brings new possibility for bottom-up nanomaterials synthesis based on nano and ultrafast laser physics.

Concepts: Photon, Optics, Physics, Light, Sun, Laser, Nanomaterials, Ultrashort pulse


An open challenge in the important field of femtosecond laser material processing is the controlled internal structuring of dielectric materials. Although the availability of high energy high repetition rate femtosecond lasers has led to many advances in this field, writing structures within transparent dielectrics at intensities exceeding 10(13) W/cm(2) has remained difficult as it is associated with significant nonlinear spatial distortion. This letter reports the existence of a new propagation regime for femtosecond pulses at high power that overcomes this challenge, associated with the generation of a hollow uniform and intense light tube that remains propagation invariant even at intensities associated with dense plasma formation. This regime is seeded from higher order nondiffracting Bessel beams, which carry an optical vortex charge. Numerical simulations are quantitatively confirmed by experiments where a novel experimental approach allows direct imaging of the 3D fluence distribution within transparent solids. We also analyze the transitions to other propagation regimes in near and far fields. We demonstrate how the generation of plasma in this tubular geometry can lead to applications in ultrafast laser material processing in terms of single shot index writing, and discuss how it opens important perspectives for material compression and filamentation guiding in atmosphere.

Concepts: Optics, Fundamental physics concepts, Optical fiber, Solid, Plasma, Dielectric, Lasers, Ultrashort pulse


We report on an optical frequency comb with 14 nm (∼1.8  THz) spectral bandwidth at a -3  dB level that is generated using a passively mode-locked quantum-well laser in photonic integrated circuits fabricated through an InP generic photonic integration technology platform. This 21.5-GHz colliding-pulse mode-locked laser cavity is defined by on-chip reflectors incorporating intracavity phase modulators followed by an extracavity semiconductor optical amplifier as a booster amplifier. A 1.8-THz-wide optical comb spectrum is presented with an ultrafast pulse that is 0.35 ps wide. The radio frequency beat note has a 3-dB linewidth of 450 kHz and 35-dB SNR.

Concepts: Optics, Laser, Frequency, Sound, Nonlinear optics, Lasers, Ultrashort pulse, Frequency comb


Current-induced magnetization manipulation is a key issue for spintronic applications. This manipulation must be fast, deterministic, and nondestructive in order to function in device applications. Therefore, single- electronic-pulse-driven deterministic switching of the magnetization on the picosecond timescale represents a major step toward future developments of ultrafast spintronic systems. Here, the ultrafast magnetization dynamics in engineered Gdx [FeCo]1-x -based structures are studied to compare the effect of femtosecond laser and hot-electron pulses. It is demonstrated that a single femtosecond hot-electron pulse causes deterministic magnetization reversal in either Gd-rich and FeCo-rich alloys similarly to a femtosecond laser pulse. In addition, it is shown that the limiting factor of such manipulation for perpendicular magnetized films arises from the formation of a multidomain state due to dipolar interactions. By performing time-resolved measurements under various magnetic fields, it is demonstrated that the same magnetization dynamics are observed for both light and hot-electron excitation, and that the full magnetization reversal takes place within 40 ps. The efficiency of the ultrafast current-induced magnetization manipulation is enhanced due to the ballistic transport of hot electrons before reaching the GdFeCo magnetic layer.

Concepts: Electron, Magnetic field, Quantum mechanics, Maxwell's equations, Laser, Magnetism, Permeability, Ultrashort pulse


Experimental methods for ultrafast microscopy are advancing rapidly. Promising methods combine ultrafast laser excitation with electron based imaging, or rely on super-resolution optical techniques to enable probing of matter on the nano-femto scale. Among several actively developed methods ultrafast time-resolved photoemission electron microscopy provides several advantages, among which the foremost are that time resolution is limited only by the laser source, and it is immediately capable for probing of coherent phenomena in solid state materials and surfaces. Here we present recent progress in interference imaging of plasmonic phenomena in metal nanostructures enabled by combining a broadly tunable femtosecond laser excitation source with a low-energy electron microscope.

Concepts: Electron, Electron microscope, Optics, Light, Coherence, Microscope, Scanning tunneling microscope, Ultrashort pulse


Ultrafast thermomechanical responses and spallation behaviours of monocrystal copper films irradiated by femtosecond laser pulse are investigated using molecular dynamics simulation (MDS). Films with 〈100〉, 〈110〉 and 〈111〉 crystal orientations along the thickness direction were studied. The results show that the crystal orientation has a significant effect on femtosecond laser-induced thermomechanical responses and spallation behaviors of monocrystal copper films. The discrepancy between normal stresses in copper films with different crystal orientation leads to distinct differences in lattice temperature. Moreover, the copper films with different crystal orientations present distinct spallation behaviors, including structural melting (atomic splashing) and fracture. The melting depth of 〈100〉 copper film is lower than that of 〈110〉 and 〈111〉 copper films for the same laser intensity. The dislocations and slip bands are formed and propagate from the solid-liquid interface of 〈110〉 and 〈111〉 copper films, while these phenomena do not appear in 〈100〉 copper film. Additionally, numerous slip bands are generated in the non-irradiated surface region of copper films due to reflection of mechanical stress. These slip bands can finally evolve into cracks (nanovoids) with time, which further result in the fracture of the entire films.

Concepts: Molecular dynamics, Solid, Materials science, Behavior, Human behavior, Normality, Film, Ultrashort pulse


We present measurements of the pulse length of ultracold electron bunches generated by near-threshold two-photon photoionization of a laser-cooled gas. The pulse length has been measured using a resonant 3 GHz deflecting cavity in TM110 mode. We have measured the pulse length in three ionization regimes. The first is direct two-photon photoionization using only a 480 nm femtosecond laser pulse, which results in short (∼15 ps) but hot (∼10(4 )K) electron bunches. The second regime is just-above-threshold femtosecond photoionization employing the combination of a continuous-wave 780 nm excitation laser and a tunable 480 nm femtosecond ionization laser which results in both ultracold (∼10 K) and ultrafast (∼25 ps) electron bunches. These pulses typically contain ∼10(3) electrons and have a root-mean-square normalized transverse beam emittance of 1.5 ± 0.1 nm rad. The measured pulse lengths are limited by the energy spread associated with the longitudinal size of the ionization volume, as expected. The third regime is just-below-threshold ionization which produces Rydberg states which slowly ionize on microsecond time scales.

Concepts: Electron, Light, Volume, Laser, Units of measurement, Length, Atomic physics, Ultrashort pulse


A simultaneously high-precision, wide-range, and ultrafast time-resolution one-shot 3D shape measurement method is presented. Simultaneous times of flight from multiple positions to a target encoded in a chirped optical frequency comb can be obtained from spectral interferometry. We experimentally demonstrate a one-shot imaging profile measurement of a known step height of 480 µm with µm-level accuracy. We further demonstrate the extension of the dynamic range by measuring in one shot a large step height of 3 m while maintaining high accuracy using the accurate pulse-to-pulse separation of the optical frequency comb. The proposed method with its large dynamic range and measurement versatility can be applied to a broad range of applications, including microscopic structures, objects with large size or aspect ratio, and ultrafast time-resolved imaging. This study provides a powerful and versatile tool for 3D measurement, where various ranges of measurement performances can be tailored to demand.

Concepts: Optics, Measurement, Units of measurement, Nonlinear optics, Dimensional analysis, Lasers, Ultrashort pulse, Frequency comb