(This article has been published in "Science" in May 1994)
The application of the chriped - pulse amplification technique to solid-state lasers combined with the availability of broad - bandwidth materials has made possible the development of small-scale terawatt and now even petawatt (1000-terawatt) laser systems. The laser technology used to produce these intense pulses and examples of new phenomena resulting from the application of these systems to atomic and plasma physics are described.
The development of terawatt, and soon petawatt, lasers based on CPA has led to new opportunities in the interaction of intense laser radiation with matter. This article has foused on enabling laser technology and introduced the application of these sources to atomic and plasma physics. Continuing laser development to produce both high-energy (kilojoule), low-repetition-rate systems and low-energy (millijoule) high-repition-rate (kilohertz) systems will further expand the application of these powerful new laser sources.