Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

H2020

HICONO Report Summary

Project ID: 641272
Funded under: H2020-EU.1.3.1.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - HICONO (High-Intensity Coherent Nonlinear Optics)

Reporting period: 2015-10-01 to 2017-09-30

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

Laser-based, photonic technologies exhibit a major key technology of the 21st century, with a large impact in a vast range of high-end optics applications. Extension of the range of such scientific and commercial laser applications requires a constant expansion of the accessible regimes of laser operation. Concepts from nonlinear optics (e.g. frequency conversion) provide all means to achieve this goal. This holds in particular true for nonlinear optical processes, driven with ultra-fast lasers. However, nonlinear optics typically suffer from efficiencies well below unity, e.g. if high-order processes are involved or if the driving laser pulse intensities must be limited below damage thresholds (e.g. in nonlinear microscopy of living cells, or nonlinear spectroscopy of combustion processes in engines). Thus, we require methods to enhance nonlinear optical processes. The field of “coherent control” provides techniques to manipulate laser-matter interactions. The basic idea is to use appropriately designed light-matter interactions to steer quantum systems towards a desired outcome, e.g. to support nonlinear optical processes.

HICONO aims at novel methods for coherent control, applied to support high-intensity ultra-fast nonlinear optics. This will establish novel and efficient types of light sources, e.g. to generate extreme-ultraviolet radiation, ultra-broad spectra or intense attosecond laser pulses. HICONO introduces novel concepts for ultra-fast spectroscopy and microscopy, and stimulates novel developments in laser technology, e.g. to provide novel ultra-fast light sources or new devices to characterize ultra-fast light pulses. HICONO involves three scientific work packages with the following specific objectives : (WP1) “Coherent control of high-intensity frequency conversion” deals with the development, implementation and investigation of coherent control scenarios to steer frequency conversion, driven by high-intensity laser pulses. (WP2) “High-intensity nonlinear spectroscopy and microscopy” deals with implementations and applications of high-intensity nonlinear optical processes in spectroscopy and microscopy, e.g. to monitor ultra-fast chemical dynamics by high-harmonic generation, and to develop novel variants of coherent harmonic microscopy. (WP3) “Ultra-short pulse measurement and characterization” deals with enabling technologies to precisely measure and characterize complex light fields.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

In the first two years of the project runtime, with most network fellows now at the end of their first year of their individual research projects, the 6 academic and 2 industry HICONO teams mainly implemented the experimental setups and already collected some relevant scientific results. These already lead to several publications in scientific journals as well as contributions to technological demonstration devices with commercial relevance.

In the following we list some highlights and major developments in the research projects of the individual teams :

1. TUDA implemented a setup to combine resonance enhancements and quasi-phase matching to improve the brightness of frequency conversion processes towards vacuum-ultraviolet (VUV) radiation in a gas-filled capillary.

2. TUDA also developed and demonstrated a new variant of nonlinear microscopy, which enables imaging of otherwise fully transparent media at improved contrast.

3. The team at IC generated VUV pulses with a high efficiency from laser-ablation plumes, and started now to use also molecular and liquid media to generate isolated attosecond pulses. The latter provide ultra-high temporal resolution to monitor the fastest processes in nature.

4. ICFO achieved a breakthrough imaging the three-dimensional atomic-scale arrangement of molecular systems, by applying laser-induced electron self-diffraction, and proceeds now towards imaging of more complex molecular systems.

5. The team at QUB works on generating high harmonic radiation using their new JETI200 laser system, which operates at very high pulse intensities. Initial results are very promising and show strong high harmonic signal at very short extreme-ultraviolet (XUV) wavelengths.

6. UOXF developed and successfully implemented new approaches to measure and characterize complex, ultra-fast light pulses by space-time interferometry. Such devices are an essential component of any technology involving ultra-short laser pulses, and, hence, also of commercial potential. UOXF also applied related approaches to harmonic space-time coupling by multi-shearing, multi-pulse interferometry.

7. The team at WIS only recently hired a candidate and started their projects on new schemes for electron recollision control. The aim is to monitor molecular states during chemical reactions, i.e. to take a “movie” of the chemical reaction with precise information on the chemical dynamics. The long term goal, i.e., beyond the runtime of HICONO, is to control chemical reactions by lasers.

8. The industry team LUPH works on an extension of their ultra-precise distance sensor, i.e., to increase the data rate by electro-optical modulation (EOM). This is of relevance to a commercial device, applied in a multitude of optics applications, where precise distance information down to the range of one nanometer is required.

9. The second industry team FTL successfully proceeds towards a novel, commercial device for temporal characterization of few cycle, mid-infrared laser pulses. This is required in any laser technology applying such pulses.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

As the above examples of the research highlights in the HICONO teams indicate, the network already proceeded well beyond the state-of-the-art of ultra-fast laser physics and nonlinear optics. This is also mirrored by already five papers published or submitted to peer-reviewed scientific journals and development of two commercially relevant technologies. Until the end of the project, HICONO aims at further expansion of the scientific knowledge on high intensity-laser matter interactions, efficient generation of VUV and XUV radiation, and applications of such frequency conversion processes to high-resolution imaging, microscopy, and analytic spectroscopy. Hence, we expect at least 12 publications in scientific journals, as well as at least two demonstration devices of commercial products for optics industry. Potentially, there are also additional developments with commercial relevance for nonlinear microscopy and measurement of ultra-fast light pulses. The scientific developments in HICONO are of relevance to high-technology optics applications in physics, chemistry, medicine, and engineering. In the broader sense of a socio-economic impact, HICONO contributes to the strongly expanding and fast growing field of photonic technologies by training of young researchers with appropriate skills to exploit the concepts of high-intensity laser technologies, laser-based control, and applied nonlinear optics.
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