Abstract

Adaptive optics systems offer the prospect of significantly increasing the capabilities of high-power laser focusability, which is currently limited by thermal distortions. Using novel wave-front measurement techniques that improve the stability of such systems and a downstream large-aperture deformable mirror that does not bear the usual limitations associated with precompensation, we have improved the focusability of a high-power (6×100-J, 1-ns) Nd:glass laser facility by a factor of 6. Measuring the wave front and the on-target focal spot at full power, we obtained after correction focal spots with a best Strehl ratio of 0.6. The pulse peak intensity could thus be increased to 2×1016 W/cm2, a level beyond reach of the usual focal spot shaping techniques. We then used the near-diffraction-limited focal spots produced by this system to measure the laser–plasma coupling for a single, controlled filament of light and to underline the importance of the coupling among the numerous speckles within conventional multispeckled beams.

© 2003 Optical Society of America

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