High-power femtosecond pulses without a modelocked laser
Modelocked lasers have long been a mainstay of ultrafast optics. However, they face ongoing challenges regarding long-term reliability, and can only emit pulses at regular intervals. Here, we present an alternative approach by seeding a fiber amplifier with a gain-switched diode. Gain-switched diodes emit pulses that are much longer and less coherent than those from modelocked oscillators. We address these issues using fiber nonlinearities: a Mamyshev regenerator isolates a coherent component of the pulse, and subsequent parabolic amplification allows the pulses to be compressed to 140 fs with 13 MW of peak power. Starting with a gain-switched diode means our system is highly robust and can in principle be electronically triggered in arbitrary pulse patterns. This flexibility may facilitate machining or microscopy sources (where pulses must be synchronized to scanning optics) or enable new types of functional neuroimaging (where specific neurons must be illuminated without saturating an entire sample).