ALF-USAL drives innovations in biomedical implants with MELTIO’s 3D technology.

The research group ALF-USAL from the University of Salamanca is participating in the ATILA project, which focuses on developing new applications for biomedical implants. This project, led by AIDIMME and also involving the FIHGUV foundation, uses MELTIO’s metal 3D printing technology.

ALF-USAL is responsible for initial studies on the parameters needed to create models simulating the additive manufacturing process. These studies are crucial for improving implant biocompatibility and customization.

The project faces challenges in material precision and adaptability but has made significant progress in creating personalized, biocompatible implants.

For more details, visit the COPE press release.

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adminALF-USAL drives innovations in biomedical implants with MELTIO’s 3D technology.

Isolated and intense polarization-controlled optical magnetic fields

Usually, when talking about laser-matter interaction, only the electric field associated with such electromagnetic radiation is taken into account. One of the reasons for this is that the excitations induced by the magnetic field are orders of magnitude smaller than those driven by the electric field. However, the interest in coherently probing magnetic systems on specific time and space scales, outside the scope of traditional magnetic field sources such as electromagnets, demonstrates the need to develop new schemes for the design and control of the electromagnetic field that forms light. This is possible thanks to the large structured light zoo, being able to manipulate different degrees of freedom such as intensity, phase or polarization state. Although there are several studies that address the separation of the magnetic field from the associated electric field in a light beam, in most cases it is necessary the interaction with matter to induce electrical currents for the creation of a sufficiently intense and isolated longitudinal linearly polarized magnetic field.

With our theoretical study we go one step further in this scenario, looking for a magnetic field whose polarization state can be controlled, ranging from linear to circular through elliptical. When such optical magnetic field with cylindrical symmetry along the beam propagation axis is introduced into Maxwell’s equations that govern classical electromagnetism, the result is an extremely complex associated electric field distribution. This consists of an optical vortex (a beam in which the phase or wavefront forms a helix as it propagates; this is known as the orbital angular momentum of light) with a single polarization component along the propagation axis. This challenging solution is beyond the current laser technology, so other more realistic schemes need to be adopted.

In our work we propose the coherent superposition of several dephased structured beams, in a way that only by their optical manipulation one can have direct control over the polarization state of the resulting isolated magnetic field in a given region of space. On one hand, we use azimuthally polarized vector beams as drivers to exploit their magnetic longitudinal component linearly polarized along the axis where the electric field is zero due to the polarization singularity. By tightly-focusing them with a large numerical aperture optical system outside the paraxial regime, this component can be confined and intensified starting from relatively low intensity lasers. By combining two or four of these focused beams in a cross geometry with the respective focus at the same point and applying the corresponding phase shifts, it is possible to achieve an intense magnetic field, isolated from the electric field and with circular polarization laying in the plane in which the driving beams are arranged, in a sub-wavelength region.

Our results obtained from a a feasible experimental setup point of view open the doors to new perspectives in such wide applications as optical and magnetic spectroscopy, force microscopy or ultrafast magnetization dynamics. In particular, the inspection of magnetic interactions with intense lasers in the ultrafast regime with phenomena such as the nonlinear dynamics of magnetization in ferromagnetic samples, the study of chiral materials or applications in the potential improvement of spatial resolution in the optical interaction with magnetic systems are particularly attractive.

More info at:

Sergio Martín-Domene, Luis Sánchez-Tejerina, Rodrigo Martín-Hernández, Carlos Hernández-García; Generation of intense, polarization-controlled magnetic fields with non-paraxial structured laser beams. Appl. Phys. Lett. 20 May 2024; 124 (21): 211101.

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2×1 in ultrashort laser pulses

In the last decades, ultrashort laser pulses have revolutionized our way of studying the microscopic world through the interaction of coherent light with matter. The generation and manipulation of these ephemeral electromagnetic fields allows us to access the fastest atomic phenomena in nature, occurring on the femto to attosecond (10-15-10-18 s) time scale. The rapid advancement of laser technology has made it possible, in recent years, to synthesize infrared pulses with sub-cycle durations, in which the most intense structure of the electric field of light barely has time to complete an oscillation at its central frequency. These pulses provide a unique tool for exploring electron motion in atoms and molecules, but their generation is still limited to extremely expensive and complex setups.

Recently, we demonstrated that these sub-cycle pulses can be obtained much more simply in standard systems based on the propagation of light through gas-filled hollow capillary fibers with a decreasing pressure gradient. This proposal is based on a surprising phenomenon of nonlinear optics, known as soliton self-compression, where an intense laser pulse can, by itself, simultaneously broaden and organize its frequency spectrum, reducing its duration almost to the limit. By following some scaling rules to design the fiber and input pulse parameters, this technique allows for the generation of high quality sub-cycle infrared pulses.

Not content with reaching durations of just one femtosecond, in our latest work, conducted in collaboration with researchers from Politecnico di Milano and Heriot-Watt University, we have explored the application of these sub-cycle fields to generate even shorter laser pulses in the attosecond regime. To do so, we have exploited the phenomenon of high-order harmonic generation, which arises from the interaction of an intense infrared pulse with the atoms of a gas. When the interaction is performed with a conventional laser, this process works as a production chain of attosecond pulses in the extreme ultraviolet, giving rise to a series of light flashes that occur at regular time intervals. However, if the interaction is driven by one of our previous sub-cycle pulses, the harmonic generation process is naturally confined to a single event, resulting in the direct emission of an isolated attosecond pulse. These solitary ultraviolet pulses are a highly sought-after tool in ultrafast science applications where very precise control and high temporal resolution are needed.

Thus, our study opens the door to a new generation of compact fiber-based systems in which, starting from a standard infrared laser pulse, we combine for the first time its extreme self-compression down to the sub-cycle regime and its direct application to generate extreme-ultraviolet isolated attosecond pulses.

More information in:

  1. F. Galán, J. Serrano, E. C. Jarque, R. Borrego-Varillas, M. Lucchini, M. Reduzzi, M. Nisoli, C. Brahms, J. C. Travers, C. Hernández-García, and J. San Roman, “Robust isolated attosecond pulse generation with self-compressed sub-cycle drivers from hollow capillary fibers,” ACS Photonics 11(4), 1673-1683 (2024).

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CSI Zamora-Salamanca: reconstructing vector pulses with amplitude swing

Temporally characterizing ultrashort laser pulses (on the femtosecond scale, i.e., 10-15 seconds) is akin to reconstructing a crime scene: the light pulses are so fast that we can’t catch them in the act, we can only reconstruct them from the clues they leave behind.

Typically, we work with linearly polarized scalar pulses, in which the polarization state remains constant over time (polarization refers to the trajectory described by the light in the transverse plane). To identify these pulses, we need to know their amplitude or intensity and their phase. There is another type of pulses in which polarization varies over time, known as vector pulses. These are more complex than scalar pulses, and we need to know the amplitude and phase of their two components, as well as the relative phase between them. If identifying a scalar pulse is equivalent to identifying a criminal, knowing a vector pulse would be like knowing a gang composed of two criminals, and moreover, the relationship between them.

One type of characterization techniques is based on measuring the spectrum of a nonlinear signal while the pulse undergoes some modification. In the amplitude swing technique (a-swing), developed by researchers from the ALF group, two replicas of the pulse to be measured are generated, temporally delayed from each other, and the second harmonic spectrum (frequency doubling) is measured for different relative amplitudes of these replicas. Thus, a two-dimensional trace is obtained (a map where color represents intensity), which is like a fingerprint of the pulse. In some techniques, ambiguities arise, i.e., two different pulses generate the same trace, as if two people had the same fingerprint. Through algorithms, the information of the pulse generating the trace (our clue) can be extracted.

Most techniques only allow the characterization of scalar pulses. If we want to reconstruct a vector pulse with one of these techniques, we need several traces, i.e., several fingerprints. In contrast, a single a-swing trace contains the necessary information to identify a vector pulse. Furthermore, these traces are obtained with an inline, compact, and versatile setup.

In this work, we analyze the a-swing traces analytically and numerically to study how the information of vector pulses is encoded, and we develop a strategy to extract it. This strategy is applied to simulated and experimental traces, demonstrating that a vector pulse can be reconstructed from its a-swing trace. If they don’t want to be caught, they’ll have to avoid leaving these kind of fingerprints…

More information at:
Cristian Barbero, Benjamín Alonso, and Íñigo J. Sola, “Characterization of ultrashort vector pulses from a single amplitude swing measurement,” Opt. Express 32, 10862-10873 (2024)

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The shortest flashes of light we can control only last a tiny fraction of a second – mere trillionths, or attoseconds. Within this tiny timeframe, we can witness how atoms and molecules behave. Attophysics, a new area of study, has emerged from this. But how did we get here? This article tells the story of our collective effort to create shorter and shorter bursts of light, a journey that won the 2023 Nobel Prize in Physics. It’s a tale of milestones, shifts in thinking, and inspiration, giving us a new perspective on scientific progress.

More information at:
L. Plaja, “Attociencia”, Revista Española de Física 37-4, 49 (2023) 

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Triggering ultrafast magnetic dynamics using structured light

In the last decades, a growing interest has been developed around the possibility of manipulating the magnetic properties of matter at the nanoscale, with the paramount objective of obtaining high-density, ultrafast, and low-power memories. Since the ’90s, the control, and namely the demagnetization of magnetic samples using femtosecond laser pulses has been widely studied. However, the thermal effects strongly limit the demagnetization characteristical times, imposing significant restrictions to obtain the desired dynamics. 

Recently, we have studied the possibility of inducing magnetization switching using exclusively circularly polarized magnetic fields. This approach relies on developing a nonlinear magnetization dynamic induced by the circularly polarized magnetic field, avoiding the thermal imposed restrictions, and paving the way to excite ultrafast dynamics in the sub-femtosecond regime. 

Crafting a circularly polarized magnetic field is a daunting challenge, although it is nowadays feasible with the wide variety of structured beams. Specifically, thanks to the azimuthally polarized vector beams, we can obtain locally isolated magnetic fields. These intriguing beams have a ring-type intensity structure, with a zero intensity in the central area of the electric field distribution. Surprisingly, in analogy with a current coil, they present an isolated, longitudinally polarized magnetic field in the region where the electric field goes to zero. Using two non-collinear, correctly dephased, azimuthally polarized vector beams, a circularly polarized magnetic field is constructed in the crossing region, where these exotic nonlinear ultrafast dynamics take place. 

Once more, structured light demonstrates its vast versatility to study and manipulate a wide range of physical processes in a large spectrum of areas in physics

More info at:

Sánchez-Tejerina, L., Martín-Hernández, R., Yanes, R., Plaja, L., López-Díaz, L., \& Hernández-García, C. (2023). All-optical nonlinear chiral ultrafast magnetization dynamics driven by circularly polarized magnetic fields. High Power Laser Science and Engineering, 11, E82. doi: 10.1017/hpl.2023.71
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Generation of cracks in materials with ultrashort pulses: standard for fracture resistance testing

This work addresses the crack growth resistance of 3 mol% Yttria-doped Tetragonal Zirconia Polycrystalline (3YTZP) spark-plasma sintered (SPS) composites containing two types of graphene-based nanomaterials (GBN): exfoliated graphene nanoplatelets (e-GNP) and reduced graphene oxide (rGO). The crack growth resistance of the composites is assessed by means of their R-Curve behavior determined by three-point bending tests on single edge “V” _notched beams (SEVNB), in two different orientations of the samples: with the crack path perpendicular or parallel to the pressure axis during the SPS sintering. The sharp edge notches were machined by ultrashort laser pulsed ablation (UPLA). The compliance and optical-based methods for evaluating the crack length are compared on the basis of the experimental R-Curve results in composites with 2.5 vol% rGO tested in the perpendicular orientation. Moreover, the activation of reinforcement mechanisms is evaluated by both the fracture surface inspection by Scanning Electron Microscopy and a compliance analysis. It is shown that the indirect compliance method is relevant and reliable for calculating the R-Curve of 3YTZP/GBN composites. The effect of the type and content of GBN on the crack growth resistance of the composites is also discussed.

More information at:

López-Pernía, C., Muñoz-Ferreiro, C., Prada-Rodrigo, J., Moreno, P., Reveron, H., Chevalier, J., Morales-Rodríguez, A., Poyato, R., & Gallardo-López, Á. (2023). R-curve evaluation of 3YTZP/graphene composites by indirect compliance method. Journal of the European Ceramic Society, 43(8), 3486-3497.
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Controlling light with intelligence

Thanks to a process called “high-order harmonic generation” significant progress has been made in generating ultrashort X-ray pulses over the past few years, with a duration of a few attoseconds (equivalent to dividing a second into 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 parts). This extremely short duration is comparable to the time it takes for electrons to transfer between atoms, making these pulses exceptional tools for exploring high-speed physical phenomena.

The required experimental setup and desired characteristics of the light pulses vary depending on their application. While it is possible to simulate this process to understand and predict its behavior under different circumstances, performing these calculations requires an extremely long time, even on the world’s most powerful supercomputers. Therefore, it is common to resort to approximations that provide acceptable but improvable results.

However, this can be addressed with intelligence, specifically with Artificial Intelligence (AI). A recent study conducted by the Research Group in Laser Applications and Photonics (ALF) has shown that it is possible to use artificial neural networks to accelerate these simulations and obtain nearly immediate results with a level of accuracy that had not been achieved until now.

More information at:  

José Miguel Pablos-Marín, Javier Serrano, Carlos Hernández-García, “Simulating macroscopic high-order harmonic generation driven by structured laser beams using artificial intelligence”, Computer Physics Communications, In Press – Journal Pre-proof (2023).

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Fantastic Spectra and where to find them

The generation of ultra-short light pulses with a good spatial structure is the philosopher’s stone of ultrafast pulse physics. These pulses make it possible to study and modify the properties of matter at time scales unreachable by other procedures.

In recent decades, great strides have been made in the generation of high-quality ultrashort pulses among which post-compression techniques stands out. Post-compression techniques consist of widening the spectrum of a pulse during its propagation thanks to nonlinear effects and then correcting its phase to achieve the shortest possible temporal pulse. The most widely used post-compression technique today is based on the nonlinear propagation of a pulse through a hollow core fiber filled with gas. However, in the last decade, with the rise of new lasers, such as the Yb laser, other post-compression methods that do not have to deal with the restrictions presented by hollow core fibers have gained relevance. One of these new post-compression techniques is the nonlinear propagation in multipass cells.

These multipass cells are cavities formed by two spherical mirrors in which the laser beam is introduced in the cavity off-axis, in such a way that the beam is reflected multiple times forming a hyperboloid before leaving the cell. One of the advantages of these cavities is that we can introduce in them a nonlinear medium through which the beam propagates in nonlinearly during the successive round trips.

Building upon this research, we have theoretically explored a post-compression region in multipass cells that allows the generation of wide spectra with smooth profiles that prevent the pulse from presenting too much structure (pre-pulses or post-pulses) once compressed. In order to accomplish this, we have relied on a particular regime explored already in the 80s known as the enhanced frequency chirp regime, and we have adapted it to multipass cells. In this regime, nonlinear effects and dispersion go hand in hand to widen the spectrum while maintaining a smooth structure that supports a very clean temporal profile. We have optimized the parameters of this region for the case of a multipass cavity filled with argon obtaining pulses whose Fourier limit is compressed more than 10 times with respect to the duration of the initial pulse, but above all maintaining an extremely clean structure, which makes it very useful for a variety of applications.

More information at:

Staels, V. W. Segundo, E. Conejero Jarque, D. Carlson, M. Hemmer, H. C. Kapteyn, M. M. Murnane, y J. San Roman. 2023. «Numerical investigation of gas-filled multipass cells in the enhanced dispersion regime for clean spectral broadening and pulse compression». Opt. Express 31(12):18898-906. doi: 10.1364/OE.481054.
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Recently, researchers belonging to ALF, have been working in the development of a miniaturized spectrometer in collaboration with the European Space Agency, the Department of Physics and Swiss Nanoscience Institute (University of Basel), the Department of Chemistry and Applied Biosciences (ETH Zurich), the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (Empa) and the Optics and Photonics Technology Laboratory (Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, EPFL). The device belongs to the family of ultracompact Fourier Transform spectrometers, and it consist of a LiNbO3 chip in which a monomodal waveguide was fabricated with an optimized design to produce a light flux in the vertical direction. In the upper part of the chip a nano-detector (gold nanowire) was placed perpendicularly to the waveguide, together with a quantum dot HgTe nanolayer. The gold nanowire acts as scattering element, sensing the light confined in the waveguide. The nanolayer creates a photocurrent that can be measured. An external mirror placed at the output of the waveguide enables the creation of a standing wave that is monitorized by the nano-detector. The controlled motion of the mirror produces a spatial swept of the standing wave, thus obtaining the measurement of the confined intensity, from which the spectrum is extracted by Fourier transform.

Scheme of the device

After fabrication, it has been demonstrated the efficient operation with resolution better than 50 cm-1 in the near infrared. The active part of the device has a tiny volume as small as 100 μm×100 μm×100 μm, and it could be integrated in the new generation of ultrasmall satellites.

More information at:  

M. Grotevent et al., “Integrated photodetectors for compact Fourier-transform waveguide spectrometers” Nature Photonics 17, 59 (2023).

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