In situ characterization and control of the phase of broadband femtosecond pulses in microscopy can be achieved with a novel simplified scheme based on spectral shear interferometry for direct electric field reconstruction (SPIDER): the use of a femtosecond pulse shaper eliminates the need for an interferometer setup, allows dispersion-free SPIDER operation and at the same time compression even of complex pulses. Beyond compression, the scheme allows precise phase control at the site of the microscopic experiment. We present the underlying principles, design considerations, and details of the experimental implementation, and show the successful operation of the shaper-assisted collinear (SAC) SPIDER to characterize, compress, and tailor broadband femtosecond pulses in situ. The reliability is demonstrated by comparison with independent cross-frequency-resolved optical gating measurement, and improved multiphoton imaging with SAC-SPIDER-compressed pulses is shown. Its simplicity and versatility make SAC-SPIDER an extremely useful tool for next-generation broadband nonlinear microscopy.
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