In the last decade, femtosecond optics became one of the rapidly growing areas of laser physics. The minimum laser pulse duration has reached the limits of 1.5—2 optical cycles, and the power of commercially available femtosecond laser systems is now hundreds of terawatts. A number of unique laser systems at the petawatt power level have been constructed. Significant progress has been made in advancing the sources of high-intensity ultrashort laser pulses to the near and mid-infrared regions and in creating compact femtosecond lasers, including fiber-based lasers.
The extremely short duration and high intensity of laser pulses combined with low pulse energy dictate the specificity of femtosecond laser systems as new research tools. The ultrashort pulse durations enable study of fast processes, control of processes in physical, chemical and biological systems at a molecular level, and high precision microprocessing of materials. The high pulse intensity opens up the possibility for generation of large-amplitude plasma waves, particle acceleration, high-harmonic generation, creation of ultralong range lidars, nonlinear spectroscopy of the atmosphere, etc. The advances in femtosecond laser technologies, including the creation of intense ultrashort optical pulses with a controlled waveform and the development of methods for ultrashort pulse characterization have led to the emergence and rapid progress of the new research branch called attosecond physics.
IAP RAS is one of the leading academic institutes engaged in research in this area. A number of important theoretical and experimental results in femtosecond and attosecond optics have been obtained by the IAP RAS researchers.