An optical parametric chirped-pulse amplifier (OPCPA) design that provides 40% pump-to-signal conversion efficiency and over-500-mJ signal energy at 1054 nm for front-end injection into a Nd:glass amplifier chain is presented. This OPCPA system is currently being built as the prototype front end for the OMEGA EP (extended performance) laser system at the University of Rochester’s Laboratory for Laser Energetics. Using a three-dimensional spatial and temporal numerical model, several design considerations necessary to achieve high conversion efficiency, good output stability, and good beam quality are discussed. The dependence of OPCPA output on the pump beam’s spatiotemporal shape and the relative size of seed and pump beams is described. This includes the effects of pump intensity modulation and pump-signal walk-off. The trade-off among efficiency, stability, and low output beam intensity modulation is discussed.
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