PerspectivePhysics

More Intense, Shorter Pulses

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Science  07 Jan 2011:
Vol. 331, Issue 6013, pp. 41-42
DOI: 10.1126/science.1200292

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Summary

A few years ago, a new type of large-scale laser infrastructure specifically conceived to produce the highest peak power and focused intensity was announced: the Extreme Light Infrastructure, ELI (1), designed to be the first exawatt-class (1018 W) laser. This gargantuan power will be obtained by cramming a kilojoule of energy into a pulse only 10 fs in duration. Analysis of the history of laser development reveals that the pulse duration and intensity of lasers (or derived coherent radiation bursts) are linearly related over more than 18 orders of magnitude (see the figure). This observation leads us to the conclusion that the shortest coherent pulse should come from such a large-sized laser. If zeptosecond and perhaps yoctosecond pulses can be produced using kilojoule-megajoule systems, it would open a route to time-resolved nuclear physics exploration and the possibility of peeking into the nucleus interior in the same way that chemical reactions or atoms can be probed today.