As the state of the art for high power laser systems increases from terawatt to petawatt level and beyond, a crucial parameter for routinely monitoring high intensity performance is laser spot size on a solid target during an intense interaction in the tight focus regime (<10 µm). Here we present a novel, simple technique for characterizing the spatial profile of such a laser focal spot by imaging the interaction region in third harmonic order (3ωlaser). Nearly linear intensity dependence of 3ωlaser generation for interactions >1019 Wcm−2 is demonstrated experimentally and shown to provide the basis for an effective focus diagnostic. Importantly, this technique is also shown to allow in-situ diagnosis of focal spot quality achieved after reflection from a double plasma mirror setup for very intense high contrast interactions (>1020 Wcm−2) an important application for the field of high laser contrast interaction science.
(Received November 15 2008)
(Accepted January 05 2009)
KeywordsHarmonic generation; Intense laser interaction