We report first experimental results on mid-IR femtosecond pulse filamentation in argon and nitrogen using 0.1-TW-peak-power 80-fs 3.9-μm pulses. Resultant spectral broadening and beam profiles are characterized for the conditions of loosely focused and collimated input beams. Spectral super-continuum spanning the spectral range from 350 nm to 5.5 m is generated in argon, whereby up to 4% of the mid-IR pulse energy is transferred into 350-1700 nm spectral. An unexpected observation of suppression of self-focusing in nitrogen at higher input intensities is reported. These results open new prospects for an eye-safe remote atmospheric sensing based on mid-IR filamentation.

© 2012 Optical Society of America

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