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35 megawatt multicycle THz pulses from a homemade periodically poled macrocrystal

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posted on 2023-11-30, 18:57 authored by Francois Lemery, Thomas Vinatier, Frank Mayet, Ralph Aßmann, Elsa Baynard, Julien Demailly, Ulrich Dorda, Bruno Lucas, Alok-Kumar Pandey, Moana Pittman
High-power multicycle THz radiation is highly sought after with applications in medicine, imaging, spectroscopy, characterization and manipulation of condensed matter, and could support the development of next-generation compact laser-based accelerators with applications in electron microscopy, ultrafast X-ray sources and sub-femtosecond longitudinal diagnostics. Multicycle THz-radiation can be generated by shooting an appropriate laser through a periodically poled nonlinear crystal, e.g. lithium niobate (PPLN). Unfortunately, the manufacturing processes of PPLNs require substantially strong electric fields $\mathcal{O}(10~kV/mm)$ across the crystal width to locally reverse the polarization domains; this limits the crystal apertures to below 1 cm. Damage threshold limitations of lithium niobate thereby limits the laser power which can be shone onto the crystal, which inherently limits the production of high-power THz pulses. Here we show that in the THz regime, a PPLN crystal can be mechanically constructed in-air by stacking lithium niobate wafers together with 180$^{\circ}$ rotations to each other. The relatively long (mm) wavelengths of the generated THz radiation compared to the small gaps ($\sim$10 $\mu$m) between wafers supports a near-ideal THz transmission between wafers. We demonstrate the concept using a Joule-class laser system with $\sim$50 mm diameter wafers and measure up to 1.3 mJ of THz radiation corresponding to a peak power of $\sim$35 MW, a 50 times increase in THz power compared to previous demonstrations. Our results indicate that high-power THz radiation can be produced with existing and future high-power lasers in a scalable way, setting a course toward multi-gigawatt THz pulses. Moreover the simplicity of the scheme provides a simple way to synthesize waveforms for a variety of applications.

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