Houkun Liang, Peter Krogen1, Zhou Wang, Hyunwook Park, Tobias Kroh, Kevin Zawilski, Peter Schunemann, Jeffrey Moses, Louis F. DiMauro, Franz X. Kärtner, and Kyung-Han Hong

DOI: 10.1038/s41467-017–00193‑4


High-energy phase-stable sub-cycle mid-infrared pulses can provide unique opportunities to explore phase-sensitive strong-field light–matter interactions in atoms, molecules and solids. At the mid-infrared wavelength, the Keldysh parameter could be much smaller than unity even at relatively modest laser intensities, enabling the study of the strong-field sub-cycle electron dynamics in solids without damage. Here we report a high-energy sub-cycle pulse synthesiser based on a mid-infrared optical parametric amplifier and its application to high-harmonic generation in solids. The signal and idler combined spectrum spans from 2.5 to 9.0 µm. We coherently synthesise the passively carrier-envelope phase-stable signal and idler pulses to generate 33 μJ, 0.88-cycle, multi-gigawatt pulses centred at ~4.2 μm, which is further energy scalable. The mid-infrared sub-cycle pulse is used for driving high-harmonic generation in thin silicon samples, producing harmonics up to ~19th order with a continuous spectral coverage due to the isolated emission by the sub-cycle driver.