We show that nonlinear phase shifts and third-order dispersion can compensate each other in short-pulse fiber amplifiers. This compensation can be exploited in any implementation of chirped-pulse amplification, with stretching and compression accomplished with diffraction gratings, single-mode fiber, microstructure fiber, fiber Bragg gratings, etc. In particular, we consider chirped-pulse fiber amplifiers at wavelengths for which the fiber dispersion is normal. The nonlinear phase shift accumulated in the amplifier can be compensated by the third-order dispersion of the combination of a fiber stretcher and grating compressor. A numerical model is used to predict the compensation, and experimental results that exhibit the main features of the calculations are presented. In the presence of third-order dispersion, an optimal nonlinear phase shift reduces the pulse duration, and enhances the peak power and pulse contrast compared to the pulse produced in linear propagation. Contrary to common belief, fiber stretchers can perform as well or better than grating stretchers in fiber amplifiers, while offering the major practical advantages of a waveguide medium.
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