Precision laser pulses to drive light-matter innovations
An EU-funded project has led cutting-edge research into how light interacts with matter, developing new technologies and techniques to push the boundaries of photonics and laser science.
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Updated on 23 August 2019
The MEDEA project has achieved important innovations in laser development, demonstrating advanced solutions for the generation of ultra-short, high-repetition rate and high average power laser systems that could lead to future breakthrough applications in medicine, materials science and industry.
The most innovative aspect of these new developments is the ability to control the precise form of the electric field of laser pulses, says scientific coordinator Giuseppe Sansone, a professor of physics at Albert-Ludwigs-University Freiburg, Germany. Controlling the electric field is important because it is the precise electric field evolution that drives light-matter interaction at high intensities. We have now extended these precision control techniques to laser sources presenting very different characteristics.
The interaction between light and matter is fundamental to many modern technologies, from life-saving medical imaging systems to precision laser manufacturing and high-speed optical communications. The work conducted in MEDEA, which focused on ultra-short light sources in the mid-infrared to extreme ultraviolet range of the light spectrum, will help advance those technologies, while driving further research into novel applications and potentially leading to the development of new devices enabling more precise control of electric fields.
Unprecedented temporal scales
The project achieved the first demonstration of coherent control of electronic wave packets exposed to high-intensity extreme ultraviolet fields and attosecond one quintillionth of a second pulses. The team was also able to observe the birth of an attosecond electronic wave packet in an atom an achievement that Sansone says will enable new techniques to observe and eventually control electronic wave packets at unprecedented temporal scales.
In the long term, we can envisage that some of the techniques and proof-of-concept experiments demonstrated within the MEDEA project will trigger investigations for the control of electronic processes in increasingly complex materials, Sansone says.
The various solutions developed within MEDEA constitute an important step in new product development for several partner companies, while training initiatives have helped support the career development of 17 young and early stage researchers.
MEDEA, which received funding from the EUs Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions programme, has promoted its activities extensively across the scientific community and among the general public, developing a Photonic Explorer Kit to encourage the exploration of photonics and laser science among secondary school pupils across Europe.