Abstract

Propagation of intense, ultrashort laser pulses through self-induced underdense aluminum plasmas is examined at intensity levels of as high as 5 × 1017 W/cm2. Observations of the on-axis transmitted portion of the incident pulse are consistent with optical-field ionization and subsequent plasma refraction. A novel application of frequency-resolved optical gating provides measurement of time-resolved spectra, giving amplitude and phase information of the transmitted laser waveform. At high enough incident intensity the transmitted energy is reduced to the 1% level, the short-wavelength extent of the complex spectra can be downshifted by as much as 19% from the incident wavelength, and the duration of the transmitted laser waveform is noticeably shortened. The usefulness of the frequency-resolved optical gating diagnostic in studying the dynamics of ionization and laser–plasma interactions is demonstrated.

© 1996 Optical Society of America

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