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Imaging Instrumentation
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A High-Throughput, Large Compensation Range, Single-Prism Femtosecond Pulse Compressor

High-peak power femtosecond pulse lasers have found broad applications in micromachining, biomedical imaging, and spectroscopy. However, group delay dispersion (GDD) while propagating through media causes longer pulses, reducing peak power. Pulse compression through gratings, prisms, or phase compensation can counteract GDD by pre-chirping the pulses with negative GDD. Unfortunately, commonly used pulse compressors use two prisms and mirrors, which are difficult to align, tune and vary the GDD over a wide range. Previous single-prism designs with a corner cube in the setup have shown compact size and easy alignment at the cost of low system throughput (~70%).

The high throughput, large compensation range, single-prism femtosecond pulse compressor design uses total internal reflection (TIR) roof mirrors instead of corner cubes to ensure high throughput. The system keeps all the advantages of a single-prism compressor, such as zero angular dispersion, zero spatial dispersion, zero pulse-front tilt, and unity magnification. In addition, a large range of GDD can be compensated using a compact geometry. Replacing the silver mirror in the current implementation with a dielectric mirror provides a further ~3% improvement.


  • Produces high throughput (90.7% @ 930nm) by replacing corner-cubes with TIR roof mirrors.
  • Provides a large compensation range ~14500 fs2 GDD with ~30 cm of prism tip-roof mirror separation.
  • Features zero angular dispersion, zero spatial dispersion, zero pulse-front tilt, and unity magnification because of the single-prism design.


  • Materials processing applications including micromachining, nanomachining, inscription, and semiconductor repair.
  • Biomedical imaging techniques such as multiphoton microscopy.
  • Optical communication techniques using femtosecond lasers are emerging, both in free space and with optical fibers.
  • Laser surgery applications such as ophthalmic corrective surgery techniques.


Free for Non-Profit Research and available for Commercial License

Janelia 2013-031

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