Lecture Notes in Physics Volume 694, 2006, pp 47-66

POLARIS: An All Diode-Pumped Ultrahigh Peak Power Laser for High Repetition Rates

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After the invention of the technique of chirped pulse amplification (CPA) [1] we have witnessed a tremendous progress in laser development over the last years. Nowadays, pulses having peak powers in the terawatt (TW) regime can be produced using table-top laser systems that easily fit into university-scale laboratories and operate at repetition rates of 10 Hz and more. These pulses can be focused to reach peak intensities in excess of 1019 W/cm2 on target which enables us to study the physics of relativistic laser-plasma interaction. However, in order to generate pulses with peak powers of 1 petawatt (PW) and more and intensities beyond 1021 W/cm2 one still has to use large-scale facilities delivering pulses containing energies of a few 10’s J or a couple of 100’s J depending on the laser material used. Due to cooling issues these PWlaser systems can be operated at a shot rate of 1 to 3 shots per hour only. This severely limits the variety and complexity of experiments that can be carried out with such laser systems.