, Volume 113, Issue 3, pp 317-325
Date: 19 May 2013

Spatial mode cleaning in radically asymmetric strongly focused laser beams

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We demonstrate that a femtosecond laser pulse strongly focused in air can produce a highly symmetric damage pattern on glass. This damage pattern contains a series of near-perfect radial rings, with diameters much larger than the predicted focal spot diameter. These rings disappear when the experiment is conducted in vacuum, indicating atmospheric involvement. Surprisingly, the shape and size of the rings seem to be nearly independent of the shape of the generating laser beam, showing dramatic spatial mode cleaning. A “half moon” initial laser mode created by obscuring one side of the round beam produces rings of similar quality to those obtained with the unclipped beam. While spatial mode cleaning has previously been reported in filaments, this is the most dramatic demonstration of the effect that we are aware of. We argue that the effect is due primarily to ionization, in contrast to studies in longer filaments that attribute it to self-focusing.