ALLS Laboratory

ALLS/LSF (Advanced Laser Light Source/ Laboratoire de Sources Femtosecondes) is a unique infrastructure of international caliber located at the Varennes campus of INRS-EMT (20 minutes south-east of Montreal), where users can find a variety of intense ultrafast laser sources. This large national laboratory for laser science was financed through the "International Joint Ventures Fund" program of the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) with an investment of 20.95M$. With the powerful lasers at the ALLS lab a series of new ultrafast light sources for revolutionary applications has been developed.

Subsequently, this laboratory achieved the development of a large variety of laser light sources reaching from THz (300 micron wavelength) to hard X-rays (Angstrom – 0.1 nm wavelength) providing ultra short pulse durations. Since these light sources are generated in an all-optical way, light pulses of different wavelengths can be spatially and temporally synchronized . This opens the door to explore the potential of dynamic imaging of atomic, molecular and condensed matter systems and provides the unique tools to explore the fundamental questions of physics and chemistry. This leads to important outcome in fundamental science as well as in innovative technological applications and tools. Among them are medical high resolution imaging for mammography and particle acceleration for future proton therapy, micro machining and material processing, as well as applications for security and defense, telecommunication and information.

Accessing ALLS

ALLS is an open research infrastructure accessible by the scientific and industrial community.

The process to submit a letter of intent is described here.

Highlights of 2015


Figure: Pictorial representation of high harmonic emission (blue cones) as a result of recollisions of electrons (red lines) with their holes (yellow spheres).

Linking high harmonics from gases and solids

With the mid-infrared lasers of ALLS we generate high order harmonics from the bulk of a ZnO crystal and demonstrate that they are a result of the recollision of electrons with their associated holes, in a similar manner that high harmonics from atoms result from the recollision of ionized electrons with the parent ion. Our findings open the possibility to extend high harmonic spectroscopy to the condensed phase, and reveal the important role of rapid dephasing of the electron-hole coherence – an effect absent in gases. Furthermore, we find that high harmonics are perturbed with electric field as weak as few V/Ang – comparable to those found in electrical circuits - thereby suggesting a new connection between electronics and attosecond science.


G. Vampa, T.J. Hammond, N. Thire, B. E. Schmidt, F. Legare, C. R. McDonald, T. Brabec and P. B. Corkum, "Linking high harmonics from gases and solids", Nature 522, 462-464 (2015). PDF


Probing molecular chirality on sub-femtosecond time-scale

Figure: Left panel shows ellipticity dependence of HHG yield in (R)- and (S)-epoxypropane at 1770nm, ~ 5x1013 W/cm2. Top right panel shows the ellipticity value at which the harmonic yield is maximum as a function of harmonic order for epoxypropane and xenon (black curve). Bottom right panel shows the time - resolved chiral response for epoxypropane reconstructed from the measured the experimental data. Shaded areas are error bars.


Chirality is possibly the easiest broken symmetry to visualize. Enantiomers, molecules that are non-superimposable mirror images of each other, have identical chemical and physical properties unless they interact with another chiral object. We introduced a conceptually new, ultrafast probe of chiral interactions based on high-harmonics generation from a randomly oriented gas of molecules subjected to intense laser field. We demonstrated that slight disparity in the laser-driven electron dynamics in the two enantiomers, associated with sub-femtosecond magnetic-dipole transitions, is recorded and amplified by several orders of magnitude in the harmonic spectra. The chiral signal arising on the sub-femtosecond time scale is monitored in-situ with time resolution of ~0.06 fs (determined by the difference in the emission times between the consecutive harmonics), paving the way for ultrafast probing of chiral response. Chiral discrimination is observed in two benchmark molecules epoxypropane and fenchone by measuring the high harmonic yields from enantiomers interacting with intense, elliptically polarized infrared laser fields as a function of ellipticity.


R. Cireasa, A. E. Boguslavskiy, B. Pons, M. C. H. Wong, D. Descamps, S. Petit, H. Ruf, N. Thiré, A. Ferré, J. Suarez, J. Higuet, B. E. Schmidt, A. F. Alharbi, F. Légaré, V. Blanchet, B. Fabre, S. Patchkovskii, O. Smirnova, Y. Mairesse, and V. R. Bhardwaj, Nat. Phys. 11, 654 (2015). PDF


Taming electric discharges with shaped laser beams

Electric discharges have long fascinated us, and have also found a number of applications in our current technology, from the ignition mechanism in combustion engines to cutting, milling and pollution control.


Lasers has been investigated as an aim to trigger and guide electric discharges since the seventies. The ionization they are able to induce in air allows for a reduction of the gas breakdown field, and therefore defines preferential propagation pathways for the dielectric breakdown.
We have shown that properly shaped laser beams allow for a fine control of the discharge process. Not only the breakdown can be triggered and guided, but this could be achieved with a high degree of spatial uniformity employing for instance Bessel beams. Airy beams on the other hand, allows to guide the lightning bolt on a curved trajectory, avoiding an obstacle placed in the beam path. Finally, the natural self-healing properties of Bessel and Airy beams can be exploited to deposit a charge behind an unavoidable obstacle. The figure below shows how the self-healing of a Bessel beam allows to guide a discharge that overcome a dielectric obstacle.
This work is the result of the collaboration between several institutions, encompassing INRS-EMT (where the experiments have been performed, at the Advanced Laser Light Source), Heriot-Watt University (UK), École Polytechnique (France), University of Central Florida and San Francisco State University (US), Nankai University and University of Electronic Science and Technology of China (China). ). Controlling electric discharges with lasers is a strategic topic, and our work received international press coverage, appearing, among others, on the front page of the Daily Telegraph, on Le Monde, Daily Mail, The Hindu, and the Times Gazette, and it has been selected as one of the 10 top discoveries according to Qc Science for 2015.


M. Clerici, Y. Hu, P. Lassonde, C. Milian, A. Couairon, D. N. Christodoulides, Z. Chen, L. Razzari, F. Vidal, F. Legare, D. Faccio, and R. Morandotti, Sci. Adv. 1, e1400111 (2015). PDF


Filming a molecule rearranging its atoms.

Figure: Pictorial representation of high harmonic emission (blue cones) as a result of recollisions of electrons (red lines) with their holes (yellow spheres).


Our world is composed of molecules of all sizes and these molecules are again composed of numerous atoms, depending on their size. Since atoms are extremely small (on the sub-nanometer scale, i.e. < 10-9 m) and are moving extremely fast (on the femtosecond time scale, i.e. 10-15 s) a direct observation of their movements and structural rearrangements cannot be achieved in a straight forward manner. While a standard optical microscope lacks spatial and temporal resolution, a so-called reaction microscope that utilizes the technique of Coulomb explosion imaging, can provide the required resolution. To achieve the necessary temporal resolution one needs ultra short pulses of laser light – similar to a flash in a camera freezing a very fast motion. The spatial resolution is obtained in an indirect manner: Coulomb explosion imaging relies on the fact that these ultrashort laser pulses are of very high intensity during their short duration. An intensity that is sufficient to break the binding energies between atoms in a molecule by stripping off their electrons almost immediately, which leaves positively charged fragments behind that undergo Coulomb explosion. Utilizing this technique we successfully shot a molecular movie of the rearrangement of the linear molecule acetylene H-C-C-H (lower left corner of thie figure (a)) to its y-shaped vinylidene isomer C-C-H2 (configuration at 2 o"™clock in the figure) - a so-called proton migration process. While the figure (a) shows the classically calculated distribution in momentum space, the other plots show the data of time dependent rearrangement of the atoms within in the molecule and lead to the information that the isomerization happens on a time scale of about 43 fs.
This work is the result of a Canadian collaboration of INRS-EMT with the Universities of Waterloo, Sherbrooke and Ottawa and the NRC Ottawa.


H. Ibrahim, B. Wales, S. Beaulieu, B. E. Schmidt, N. Thiré, E. P. Fowe, É. Bisson, C. T. Hebeisen, V. Wanie, M. Giguére, J.-C. Kieffer, M. Spanner, A. D. Bandrauk, J. Sanderson, M. S. Schuurman, and F. Légaré, Nat. Commun. 5, 4422 (2014). PDF


High-Energy Hollow-Core Fiber Compression.


Recently, by employing pulse compression with a stretched hollow-core fiber, 2-cycle pulses at 1.8 lm (12 fs) carrying 5 mJ of pulse energy at 100 Hz repetition rate were created. This energy scaling in the mid-infrared spectral range was achieved by lowering the intensity in a loose focusing condition, thus suppressing the ionization induced losses. The correspondingly large focus was coupled into a hollow-core fiber of 1 mm inner diameter, operated with a pressure gradient to further reduce detrimental nonlinear effects. The required amount of self-phase modulation for spectral broadening was obtained over 3 m of propagation distance.


Vincent Cardin, Nicolas Thiré, Samuel Beaulieu, Vincent Wanie, François Légaré, and Bruno E. Schmidt , Appl. Phys. Lett. 107, 181101 (2015) PDF


Frequency domain Optical Parametric Amplification (FOPA).

Within the last decade, several approaches have been developed to generate intense few-cycle laser pulses. The amplification of those laser pulses remains a technological challenge. In 2012-2013, a team of researchers from INRS-EMT under the direction of Prof. F. Légaré (Drs. B. E. Schmidt and H. Ibrahim) have proposed a new approach called Frequency domain Optical Parametric Amplifier, and the intelectual property has been protected by INRS. This new approach has successfully been demonstrated using the ALLS infrastructure through a collaboration with Prof. Ozaki.

Method and system for high power parametric amplification of ultra-broadband few-cycle laser pulses, PCT/CA2012/050557. Authors: Schmidt, B. E., Légaré, F., Ibrahim, H. Registration date: August 17 2012.


"Frequency domain Optical Parametric Amplification", B. E. Schmidt, N. Thiré, M. Boivin, A. Laramée, F. Poitras, G. Lebrun, T. Ozaki, H. Ibrahim, F. Légaré , Nat Commun. 5 3643. PDF


Both the FOPA and the hollow core fiber devices were turned into commercial products by the spin-off company - few-cycle Inc. - with the support of an NSERC's INNOV funding. Based on the research by Prof. François Légaré from INRS-ÉMT, Dr. Bruno Schmidt founded his company in 2013 and made the first steps towards the commercialization of these and other specialized products. The copyright and IP of the unique FOPA technology are protected by INRS (PCT/CA2012/050557). This spin-off is located at the INRS-EMT center in Varennes, Qc. The proximity of ALLS, providing its tools and expertise, permits the advent of the first Canadian company dedicated to intense femtosecond light sources.

Visit few-cycle Inc. website here.

Highlights of 2013

View them > HERE <

Major Publications


Probing molecular chirality on a sub-femtosecond timescale

Cireasa R., Boguslavskiy AE., Pons B., Wong MCH.,Descamps D., Petit S., Ruf H., Thiré N., Ferré A., Suarez J., Higuet J., Schmidt BE., Alharbi AF., Légaré F., Blanchet V., Fabre B., Patchkovskii S., Smirnova O., Mairesse Y., Bhardwaj VR.

Nat Phys. Nature Publishing Group; 2015 Aug 1; 11(8):654-8


Linking high harmonics from gases and solids

Vampa G., Hammong TJ., Thiré N., Schmidt BE., Légaré F., McDonald CR., Brabec T., Corkum PB.

Nature. Nature Publishing Group; 2015 Jun 25; 522(7557):462-4


Laser-assisted guiding of electric discharges around objects

Clerici M., Hu Y., Lassonde P., Milàn C., Couairon A., Chritodoulides DN., Zhigang C., Razzari L., Vidal F., Légaré F., Faccio D., Morandotti R.

Science Advances; 2015 Jun 1; 1(5) e1400111


Tabletop imaging of structural evolutions in chemical reactions demonstrated for the acetylene cation

Ibrahim H., Wales B., Beaulieu S., Schmidt BE., Thiré N., Fowe EP., Bisson É., Hebeisen CT., Wanie V., Giguère M., Kieffer JC., Spanner M., Bandrauk AD., Sanderson J., Schuuman MS., Légaré F.

Nat. Comm. Nature Publishing Group; 2014 Jul 18; 5 4422


Frequency domain optical parametric amplification

Schmidt BE., Thiré N., Boivin M., Laramée A., Poitras F., Lebrun G., Ozaki T., Ibrahim H., Légaré F.

Nat. Comm. Nature Publishing Group; 2014 Jul 18; 5 3643


High harmonic spectroscopy of the cooper minimum in molecules

Wong MCH., Le AT., Alharbi AF., Boguslavskiy AE., Lucchese RR., Brichta JP., Lin CD., Bhardwaj VR.

Phys. Rev. Lett.; 2013 Aug 18; 110 033006


Wavelength Scaling of Terahertz Generation by Gas Ionization

Clerici M., Peccianti M., Schmidt BE., Caspani L., Shalaby M., Giguère M., Lotti A., Couairon A., Légaré F., Ozaki T., Faccio D., Morandotti R.

Phys. Rev. Lett.; 2013 Jun 17; 110 253901


Probing collective multi-electron dynamics in xenon with high-harmonic spectroscopy

Shiner a. D, Schmidt BE, Trallero-Herrero C, Wörner HJ, Patchkovskii S, Corkum PB, Kieffer J-C, Légaré F, Villeneuve DM.

Nat Phys. Nature Publishing Group; 2011 Mar 6; 7(6):464-7


Compression of 1.8 µm laser pulses to sub two optical cycles with bulk material

Schmidt BE, Béjot P, Giguère M, Shiner AD, Trallero-Herrero C, Bisson E, Kasparian J, Wolf J-P, Villeneuve DM, Kieffer J-C, Corkum PB, Légaré F.

Appl Phys Lett. 2010; 96(12):121109


Wavelength scaling of high harmonic generation efficiency

Shiner AD, Trallero-Herrero C, Kajumba N, Bandulet H-C, Comtois D, Légaré F, Giguère M, Kieffer JC, Corkum PB, Villeneuve DM.

Phys Rev Lett. APS; 2009; 103(7):73902


Higher-order harmonic generation from fullerene by means of the plasma harmonic method

Ganeev RA, Bom LBE, Abdul-Hadi J, Wong MCH, Brichta JP, Bhardwaj VR, Ozaki T

Phys Rev Lett. APS; 2009; 102(1):13903


Microwave guiding in air by a cylindrical filament array waveguide

Chateauneuf M, Payeur S, Dubois J, Kieffer J-C.

Appl Phys Lett. AIP; 2008; 92(9):91104


Laser-induced electron tunneling and diffraction

Meckel M, Comtois D, Zeidler D, Staudte A, Pavicic D, Bandulet HC, Pépin H, Kieffer JC, Dörner R, Villeneuve DM.

Science. 2008; 320:1478-81


Dynamic two-center interference in high-order harmonic generation from molecules with attosecond nuclear motion

Baker S, Robinson JS, Lein M, Chirila CC, Torres R, Bandulet HC, Comtois D, Kieffer JC, Villeneuve DM, Tisch JW.

Phys Rev Lett. 2008; 101:53901


Laser ablation threshold dependence on pulse duration for fused silica and corneal tissues: experiments and modeling

Giguère D, Olivié G, Vidal F, Toetsch S, Girard G, Ozaki T, Kieffer J-C, Nada O, Brunette I.

JOSA A. Optical Society of America; 2007; 24(6):1562-8


Generation of 1.5 µJ single-cycle terahertz pulses by optical rectification from a large aperture ZnTe crystal

Blanchard F, Razzari L, Bandulet HC, Sharma G, Morandotti R, Kieffer JC, Ozaki T, Reid M, Tiedje HF, Haugen HK, Hegmann FA.

Opt Express. 2007; 15(20):13212-20