Ultrafast pulse technology refers to the generation and use of laser pulses with durations in the femtosecond range. These ultrafast pulses are useful for a variety of applications ranging from the scientific study of very fast chemical and biological events to commercial use in fields such as medicine and communication. There continues to be demand for pulses with even shorter durations, pulses with higher power, and pulses with a wider spectral range down to the x-ray regime. The present article covers the basics of the generation of ultrafast pulses (Section II) and goes into detail about several modern ultrafast lasers (Section III). Amplification of ultrashort laser pulses to very high intensities is reviewed in Section IV, and some nonlinear techniques are discussed in section V. The techniques used to characterize ultrafast lasers are reviewed in Section VI. Future directions for ultrafast laser systems are discussed in Section VII.
Encycl. Phys. Sci. Technol., Third Ed., R.A. Meyers, Editor (Academic Press, San Diego, CA)