Mid-infrared ultrashort high energy laser sources are opening up new opportunities in science, including keV-class high harmonic generation and monoenergetic MeV-class proton acceleration. As new higher energy sources become available, potential applications for atmospheric propagation can dramatically grow to include stand-off detection, laser communications, shock-driven remote terahertz enhancement and extended long-lived thermal waveguides to transport high power microwave and radiofrequency waves. We reveal a new paradigm for long-range, low-loss, ultrahigh power ultrashort pulse propagation at mid-infrared wavelengths in the atmosphere. Before the onset of critical self-focusing, energy in the fundamental wave continually leaks into shock-driven spectrally broadened higher harmonics. A persistent near-invariant solitonic leading edge on the multi-terawatt pulse waveform transports most of the power over hundred-metre-long distances. Such light bullets are resistant to uncontrolled multiple filamentation and are expected to spark extensive research in optics, where the use of mid-infrared lasers is currently much under-utilized.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
- Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics