Ultrashort pulse generation in the mid-IR
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Recent developments in laser sources operating in the mid-IR (View the MathML source) have been motivated by the numerous possibilities for both fundamental and applied research. One example is the ability to unambiguously detect pollutants and carcinogens due to the much larger oscillator strengths of their absorption features in the mid-IR spectral region compared with the visible. Broadband sources are of particular interest for spectroscopic applications since they remove the need for arduous scanning or several lasers and allow simultaneous use of multiple absorption features thus increasing the confidence level of detection. In addition, sources capable of producing ultrashort and intense mid-IR radiation are gaining relevance in attoscience and strong-field physics due to wavelength scaling of re-collision based processes. In this paper we review the state-of-the-art in sources of coherent, pulsed mid-IR radiation. First we discuss semi-conductor based sources which are compact and turnkey, but typically do not yield short pulse duration. Mid-IR laser gain material based approaches will be discussed, either for direct broadband mid-IR lasers or as narrowband pump lasers for parametric amplification in nonlinear crystals. The main part will focus on mid-IR generation and amplification based on parametric frequency conversion, enabling highest mid-IR peak power pulses. Lastly we close with an overview of nonlinear post-compression techniques, for decreasing pulse duration to the sub-2-optical-cycle regime.