The emergence of few-cycle laser pulses induced enormous interests on the nonlinear phenomena, such as above-threshold ionization[1~3], high harmonic generation[4, 5] and isolated attosecond generation[6~13] etc. The state-of-the-art few-cycle laser generators, like Kerr-lens mode-locked Ti:sapphire lasers, have delivered directly from oscillator optical pulses with the duration of 5fs [14,15], which corresponds to less than two optical cycles in the near infrared wavelength range. At such short pulse duration, the peak electric field strength of the laser depends strongly on the relative phase between the carrier and the envelope of the pulse. This relative phase is the carrier-envelope phase (CEP). The CEP occurs in the ultrashort pulses, for longer pulses, in general it is not ignored because of the neglectable role. However, the CEP will become significant on the laser matter interaction for few-cycle pulses. It is obvious that the CEP plays an important role in physical processes stated above, especially in attosecond generation schemes, such as interaction between the inert gases and the few-cycle intense pulses [6, 7]and Fourier coherent synthesis among ultrashort lasers with different wavelength[16,17], controlling the CEP is always an important prerequisite.
In fact, the CEP from pulse to pulse in a pulse train that emitted by a mode-locked femtosecond laser is different because of dispersion. The group and phase velocity will differ and cause CEP evolve rapidly when propagating through materials inside the cavity, such as Ti:sapphire crystal, coating mirrors and prisms etc. The pulse-to-pulse CEP change is the carrier-envelope phase offset (CEO). Up to now, several methods have been developed to measure and control the CEO of femtosecond laser pulses train in the frequency domain[18~26]. In this chapter, we will introduce two schemes for measuring the CEO frequency of pulses in femtosecond Ti:sapphire laser. The first and the most widely used technique is the self-reference method, also be termed the
In chirped pulse amplification (CPA) system, although the CEO frequency of seed pulses emitted from femtosecond oscillator stabilized highly, the CEO of amplified laser pulses can change through the amplified crystal, dispersion material and air[36~38]. Lastly we described the measurement and control the CEO frequency of few-cycle high energy laser pulses at 1kHz repetition rate.
2. Carrier-envelope phase offset in femtosecond laser pulse
As already stated above, the CEP is the relative phase between carrier and envelope peak for a single laser pulse and the CEO is the CEP change from pulse to pulse for a pulses train. If we write the electric field of the laser pulse as
To understand deeply
The CEO in the pulse train emitted by a mode-locked laser occurs because the phase and group velocities inside the cavity are different. Due to dispersion, the successive pulses
output after once per round trip in the cavity will produce the offset phase, it can be expressed as
In the frequency domain, the optical frequencies of the comb lines can be written as:
Thus, the task of stabilizing Δ
From Eq. (2.3), we can find that the optical frequency
3. Schemes for measuring the CEO frequency
Controlling the CEO is an important prerequisite for many high intensity laser phenomena that are sensitive to the electric field. To control it, we have to measure it firstly. It is easy to measure the repetition rate with a photo diode detector, however, measurement of the CEO is a much more difficult task. From Eqn. (2.4), we see that the pulse-to-pulse phase evolution causes a rigid shift of the frequency comb by
3.1. f-to-2f interferometer method
To measure the CEO frequency with
If the spectrum is sufficiently broad, for example covering an octave, the low frequency component of the spectrum can be written as
and the high frequency component of the spectrum is given by
There occurs spectrum region where high frequency components and the frequency-doubled of the low frequency components overlapped. Measuring the heterodyne beat signal between the
Since the high frequency components and the frequency-doubled of low frequency components are from the same spectrum, the f-to-2f measurement technique also is termed “self-referencing”. It should be noticed that the octave-spanning spectrum can be produced by the PCF used outside the cavity of the narrow-bandwidth femtosecond Ti:sapphire oscillator stated above, and also can be yielded directly by the ultrabroad-bandwidth femtosecond Ti:sapphire oscillator developed successfully in recent years[39,40].
The typical experimental setup implementing the f-to-2f interferometer is shown in Figure 2. In reality, a group of comb lines contribute phase coherently to the photodiode signal, so even with at most 10 nanoWatts per comb line ( a typical amount for a 100MHz spaced comb after broadening in microstructure fiber) there is enough signal to noise (S/N) to properly lock
3.2. 0-to-f method based on difference frequency generation
Although the f-to-2f measurement technique is widely used to measure the CEO frequency of ultrashort pulses emitted from mode-locked Ti:sapphire laser, there have been some disadvantages in the stabilized frequency comb system based on f-to-2f scheme because of its complicated configuration and alignment-sensitive PCF. To generate strong nonlinear effects when ultrashort pulses propagating through it, the core diameter of the PCF has to be made very small, generally at 1um~2um. However, such small core diameter may cause high loss, significant spectrum change in tiny disturb and limit the maximum comb output power. Moreover, excessive dispersion and phase noise of the nonlinear interferometer prevents the broadband spectrum laser from being compressed to few-cycle pulses with low time-jitter. Recently, a novel CEO frequency measurement technique based on the nonlinear difference frequency generation(DFG) and self-phase modulation (SPM) of the few-cycle pulses focused in the monolithic highly nonlinear periodically poled magnesium-oxide-doped lithium niobate (PP-MgO:LN) crystal or other nonlinear crystals is provided. In regions of spectral overlap, a CEO beat frequency between the fundamental wave extended by SPM and the DF wave was observed. This method is termed 0-to-f measurement technique. The schematic of 0-to-f technique by use of DFG is shown in Figure 4. The DF frequency comb (red line) is produced by mixing of the high frequency part and the low frequency part of the spectrum (blue line), given by
It is independent of
If the spectrum of fundamental wave broad enough by SPM, it will overlap with the DF frequency comb, where interference beat signal can be obtained at
The 0-to-f measurement technique is usually implemented in the laser pulse shorter than 10fs with the ultrabroadband spectrum even less than one octave. Such mode-locked Ti:sapphire lasers are available based on the chirped-mirror dispersion compensation technique[41~43]. In our experiment[44,45], the typical laser cavity consists of a pair of concave chirped-mirror, a plane chirped-mirror and an output coupler. The schematic is shown in Figure 5. The high doped Ti:sapphire crystal (Ti:Sa) was cut at Brewsterd angle with length in 2mm, CM1, CM4 and CM5 are chirped mirrors with high reflectivitity from 580 to 1100nm, CM2 and CM3 is a chirped pair mirror with ROC of 50mm, OC is the output coupler. All these mirrors were optimized choiced based on the calculation for dispersion balance among all optics intracavity. Once the mode-locking was started, ultrabroaden
spectrum can be obtained through the optimized alignment the distance between CM2 and CM3. With the optimized dispersion compensation extracavity with CM 4, CM5 and a pair of silica wedge, we got the interferenmeter resolved autocorrelation trace as Figure 6(A) by using a commercial autocorelator (Femtolaser Inc). It infers the pulse duration is shorter as 7.5fs.
In 0-to-f measurement technique, the difference frequency is generated between the frequency components in two sides of spectrum, the middle parts of spectrum has little contribution. To generate DFG effectively, we designed and used a special output coupler in the Ti:sapphire laser to enhance the laser intensity in both edges than the central spectrum. With this idea, we generated the artifical spectrum with U-shaped distribution,as Figure 6(B). Two peaks appear around the wavelength of 710nm and 940nm. Such spectrum can greatly optimize the signal-to-noise ratio because of the efficient DFG between two wavelengths at spectrum edges.
Figure 7. shows the schematic of measuring the CEO frequency of 7.5 fs laser pulses emitted from the Ti: sapphire oscillator by the 0-to-f technique. The few-cycle pulses are reflected firstly several rounds by two chirped-mirrors outside the cavity to compensate the dispersion caused by the output coupler, and then through a pair of wedges to adjust carefully the residual dispersion. This is a key step for generating the high S/N beat signal. Because both the high and low frequency components for DFG come from the same laser beam, if the dispersion is compensated incompletely, they will not completed overlap in the spatial and tempal domains, which will lead to unable to generate difference frequency.
There is a unique advantage by use of 0-to-f technique to measure the CEO frequency. Except for the high S/N CEO beat signal in the infrared near the fundamental spectrum, the generation of difference frequency with self-stabilized phase happens in the far infrared from the fundamental spectrum at the same time. The difference frequency spectrum is shown in Figure 8. The power of such self-stabilization laser pulses is too low to be measured, however, once through amplification, it will be an ideal light source for some high field applications.
Comparing with f-to-2f and 0-to-f methods, the latter has obvious advantages, such as higher power, better stability, and no excessive amplitude to phase conversion noise in PCF etc. Additionally, self-stabilization of CE phase by use of DFG, which provides an intrinsically phase-stabilized laser pulses in mid-infrared spectrum, is useful and valuable in the application of the attosecond generation.
4. Robust stabilization of the CEO frequency
The CEO frequency in few-cycle pulses is sensitive to the surrounding environment, such as air flow, temperature shift and even sound noise[47~49]. In practice, anything that can passively reduce the environmental perturbations to the laser relieves the burden placed on servo-loops and leads to a more successful stabilization. From our experiences of stabilizing the CEO frequency in Ti:sapphire laser, cavity design based on the chirped-mirror dispersion compensation is more stable than that based on the prisms dispersion compensation. This is because of beam pointing fluctuations via the prism sequence, which lead to CEP fluctuation, however, CM-based cavities without prisms are free of such fluctuations. In order to realize long term reliable phase lock, some of actions that isolated cavities from the surrounding disturbance include enclosing the cavity in a sealed aluminum box, employing high quality, solid mounts, and using the lowest practical beam height. In addition, it is necessary to use a single frequency, diode-pumped solid state 532nm laser as the pump source, such as Verdi serials made by coherent company, which is helpful to reduce the noise of Ti:sapphire laser.
4.1. Control the repetition rate and the CEO frequency
The repetition rate and the CEO frequency are the two degrees of freedom for few-cycle laser pulses. To stabilize laser frequency corresponds to stabilize these two parameters. In general, the repetition rate and the CEO frequency are locked to the same stable microwave source outside at the same time, such as Rb, Cs or H clocks. Then the stability of the microwave clocks can be transmitted precisely to the optical frequency.
The measurement and control of the repetition rate is relatively easy because of its natural stability, usually shift at Hz level rather than KHz level shift of the CEO frequency. However it is not easy to stabilize with high accuracy. Through glue a mirror to a PZT in the cavity as the controller, then receive the residual transmission light after one mirror by an APD and switch to the electrical signal of the repetition rate, compare with the standard frequency of microwave source and get the control signal after proportional-integral (PI) process to feedback control the PZT, finally the stable cavity length can be realized with experience the long term temperature shift.
Comparatively speaking, control of the CEO frequency is a hard task because it changes fast at KHz level. In this case the responding velocity of PZT is usually unable to follow it, the AOM with high responding velocity used to control the CEO frequency. The AOM can changes lightly the power of the pump laser and lead to the change of the CEO frequency. So in the CEO control feedback loop, the AOM plays the role of controller. In addition, to close the loop, there must be a laser parameter that changes of CEO frequency inside the cavity by hand. A pair of wedges is inserted into the beam path of the cavity to help realization of close loop.
4.2. Stabilization of frequency comb based on DFG
It is well known, under the condition of the same laser average power, each mode power of the comb linearly increases with the repetition rate. Therefore, frequency comb with high repetition rate is more helpful for optical frequency measurements. A mode-locked Ti:sapphire laser with 350MHz repetition rate based on chirped mirrors dispersion compensation technique is developed. Figure 9 is the schematic layout of the stabilized frequency comb system. Chirped-mirror mode-locked Ti:sapphire oscillator consists of five mirrors, of which mirror M4 with the diameter of 6mm, thickness of 2.3mm is glued to a PZT used to control the length of the cavity. A pair of wedges is put between the mirror M3 and M4 to adjust crudely the CEO frequency for loop close. After dispersion pre-compensating outside the cavity by a pair of chirped mirrors, the output laser with average power of 300mW and pulse duration of 7 fs is focused on a 2mm-thick MgO:PPLN crystal in the in-loop 0-to-f unit for measurement of the CEO frequency. And the excess second 0-to-f measurement unit, called out-of-loop, have built for analyzing and comparing the phase noise of the CEO frequency. Figure 9 also shows the electrical feedback system for
The repetition rate of the femtosecond laser is phase locked to a standard 1.05GHz signal from a frequency synthesizer and stabilized by controlling the cavity length. In the phase locked loop for the stabilization of
Compared with the f-to-2f scheme based on a piece of PCF for octave-spanning spectrum generation and an interferometer for
4.3. In-loop and Out-of-loop phase noise measurement
Long term phase coherence of the CEP became the key parameter for the utility of CEP-stable pulses in many actual nonlinear experiments after control of a pulse train’s CEO. As seen from eqn. (2.4), slight offset from
Here it should be specifically noted that the coherence of
5. Control the CEP of high energy laser pulse at 1kHz repetition rate
CEP control of the few cycle light pulses enables the generation of optical waveforms with the reproducible electric field profile which has shown its importance in the observed phenomena, such as above-threshold ionization and high-order harmonic generation (HHG). In particular, isolated attosecond pulse generation through HHG is strongly affected by the drift of CEP. Additional CEP drift is occurred in the amplification stage even if the CEP of the seed oscillator is fixed. Several factors including thermal fluctuation of the environment, beam pointing fluctuation and the laser pulse energy fluctuation may result in the drift and fluctuation to the CEP of the amplified pulses. Typically the amplification is operated at a low repetition rate with large pulse energy. To evaluate and further control the CEP slip of the amplified pulses, a single-shot measurement of the spectral interference (SI) is proposed[36,37].
Phase locking is achieved by modulating the pump power of the seed oscillator through the AOM which varies the transmitted power proportional to the phase error signal generated by the phase locking electronics. As a result, for Ti:sapphire CPA system at 1kHz repetition rate seeded by few-cyle pulses at 80MHz repetition rate, given selecting
5.1. Spectral interferemetry
Since the repetition rate of the amplified pulses is only 1 kHz, it is difficult to use f-to-2f or DFG method to detect CEP signal. In the year 2001, Kakehata
Considering the long wavelength portion and its harmonic, when passing through a dispersive media, the short wavelength portion delays
For a specific dispersive media, the delay time
The Fourier transform of interference signal (for clearance, the Fourier frequency is k) is:
In the real experiment, by introducing ~1% of the amplified pulses, about10uJ into a 1 mm thick sapphire plate white light continuum of an octave spanning is produced, then a BBO crystal is used to frequency double the infrared spectrum to generate spectral interference with the blue parts. The SI signal is collected by a spectrometer and is analyzed by the PC software. Figure 13 shows the interference spectrum at the center wavelength of 525nm with the bandwidth of 30nm which covers about 17 interference fringes. It must be mentioned that the prerequisite of the achievement of this interference spectrum is to lock the CEO of the seed pulses train emitted from Ti:sapphire oscillator. The phase-locked loop for feedback control the CEO of multiple-MHz repetition rate seed pulses is called “fast-loop”, relatively, “slow-loop” designated to the electrical servo-control CEP for successive kHz repetition rate amplified pulses. It is obvious that there is no interference phenomenon in the spectrum of amplified pulses unless “fast-loop” turned on.
5.2. Control of CEP in amplified pulses
The CEP control process for amplified pulses is implemented by a real-time software running on a PC, which acquires the output of the interferometer (Ocean Optics, HR2000) and output the control signal by D/A conversion through an DAQ card (National Instrument, PCI-6221). Firstly, the system samples the interference curve and applies FFT to spectrum region of interest to get CEP power and phase spectrum. Secondly, the peak frequency offset of CEP spectrum
The PI controller,
Figure 14 displays the locking results of amplified pulses with the slow loop on and off. In Figure 14, curve A shows CEP drift of the amplified pulses during 5 minutes when only locking the oscillator by ‘fast loop’, curve B is the result after locking ‘slow loop’. It is clear that the CEP is changing greatly in the former state, while the rms error of CEP is only 53 mrad in the later one. The system is able to lock for over 3 hours. For even lower repetition rate lasers, although the SI method is still able to effectively detect CEP, the feedback loop bandwidth is limited by the repetition rate, so the performance of noise suppressing is also limited.
Frequency comb techniques (stabilization of CEO in oscillator) have brought a truly revolutionary influence to the optical frequency metrology and precision spectroscopy since it emerged about ten years ago. Specially, in recent years a number of nonlinear physical processes dependent on electric filed rather than intensity envelope of the pulse have been investigated, such as coherent control of atomic and molecular system, optimization of high harmonic generation, and dynamic of electron motion on femtosecond and attosecond time scales, where clearly the CEP stabilization in amplified pulses played an important role. We presented a novel monolithic 350MHz frequency comb system based on 0-to-f measurement technique with excellent long term phase lock, and realized stabilization of high energy pulses at 1kHz with the phase fluctuation less than 60 mrad. Accordingly, we believed that CEP stabilized femtosecond laser using advanced techniques will continue to open up new fields of applications in the future.