Optical parametric chirped pulse amplifiers offer exciting prospects for generating new extremes in power, intensity, and pulse duration. An experiment is described that was used to investigate the operation of this scheme up to energies approaching a joule, as a step toward its implementation at the petawatt level. The results demonstrate an energy gain of 1010 with an energy extraction efficiency of 20% and close to diffraction-limited performance. Some spectral narrowing during amplification was shown to be compatible with the time-varying profile of the pump beam and consistent with the measured recompressed pulse durations of 260 and 300 fs before and after amplification, respectively.
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