This book provides an introductory description of mode-locked lasers, the connection between time and frequency descriptions of their output and the physical origins of the electric field dynamics, together with an overview of applications of femtosecond comb technology. Individual chapters go into more detail on mode-locked laser development, spectral broadening in microstructure fiber, optical parametric amplification, optical frequency metrology, optical atomic clocks, ultrasensitive sensors, carrier-envelope phase dynamics, high field ionization of atoms and generation of attosecond high-harmonic radiation.
Over the last few years, there has been a convergence between the fields of ultrafast science, nonlinear optics, optical frequency metrology, and precision laser spectroscopy. These fields have been developing largely independently since the birth of the laser, reaching remarkable levels of performance. On the ultrafast frontier, pulses of only a few cycles long have been produced, while in optical spectroscopy, the precision and resolution have reached one part in Although these two achievements appear to be completely disconnected, advances in nonlinear optics provided the essential
link between them. The resulting convergence has enabled unprecedented advances in the control of the electric field of the pulses produced by femtosecond mode-locked lasers. The corresponding spectrum consists of a comb of sharp spectral lines with well-defined frequencies. These new techniques and capabilities are generally known as “femtosecond comb technology.” They have had dramatic impact on the diverse fields of precision measurement and extreme nonlinear optical physics.
The historical background for these developments is provided in the Foreword by two of the pioneers of laser spectroscopy, John Hall and Theodor Hänsch. Indeed the developments described in this book were foreshadowed by Hänsch’s early work in the 1970s when he used picosecond pulses to demonstrate the connection between the time and frequency domains in laser spectroscopy. This work complemented the advances in precision laser stabilization developed by Hall. The parallel efforts on mode-locked lasers by Charles Shank, Erich Ippen, and others laid the groundwork for the development in the 1990s by Wilson Sibbett of Kerrlens mode locking, the instantaneous nature of which yields sub-10 fs pulses directly from laser oscillators that correspond to strong phase-locking of the comb components across a broad optical spectrum. The synergy between precision spectroscopy and ultrafast lasers was catalyzed by the development of novel optical fiber with high nonlinearity and controlled dispersion.