Abstract

In this paper, we propose a study of the picosecond temporal contrast degradation of ultrashort laser pulses by surface defects in pulse stretchers. In a chirped-pulse-amplification stretcher or compressor, dust and damages on the surface of an optical element lead to a spectral amplitude modulation. Furthermore, surface figure errors of optical elements happening where the pulse is spatially dispersed yield a modulation of the spectral phase. The influence of both amplitude and phase noise effects is numerically investigated using a hybrid ray-tracing method that enables treating separately the influence of noise sources, whether noise occurs in the near field or the far field. We show that the main issue in terms of picosecond contrast degradation is a combined effect of surface pattern distortion in the far field and phase–amplitude coupling caused by spatial frequency filters. Temporal domains can be defined, where the temporal contrast is dominated by different noise effects. The algorithm used in this paper is compared to the cross-correlation trace of a pulse. The conclusions emerging from the presented analysis are universally applicable to known grating stretcher geometries.

© 2019 Optical Society of America

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