Multimillijoule coherent terahertz bursts from picosecond laser-irradiated metal foils

Guoqian Liao, Yutong Li*, Hao Liu, Graeme G. Scott, David Neely, Baojun Zhu, Chris Armstrong, Zhe Zhang, Egle Zemaityte, Philip Bradford, Peter G. Huggard, Dean R. Rusby, Paul McKenna, Ceri M. Brenner, Nigel C. Woolsey, Yihang Zhang, Weimin Wang, Zhengming Sheng, Jie Zhang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Ultrahigh-power terahertz (THz) radiation sources are essential for many applications, for example, THz-wave-based compact accelerators and THz control over matter. However, to date none of the THz sources reported, whether based upon large-scale accelerators or high-power lasers, have produced THz pulses with energies above the millijoule (mJ) level. Here, we report a substantial increase in THz pulse energy, as high as tens of mJ, generated by a high-intensity, picosecond laser pulse irradiating a metal foil. A further up-scaling of THz energy by a factor of ∼4 is observed when introducing preplasmas at the target-rear side. Experimental measurements and theoretical models identify the dominant THz generation mechanism to be coherent transition radiation, induced by the laser-accelerated energetic electron bunch escaping the target. Observation of THz-field-induced carrier multiplication in high-resistivity silicon is presented as a proof-of-concept application demonstration. Such an extremely high THz energy not only triggers various nonlinear dynamics in matter, but also opens up the research era of relativistic THz optics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3994-3999
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number10
Early online date13 Feb 2019
Publication statusPublished - 5 Mar 2019

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2019 the Author(s). Published by PNAS.


  • Coherent transition
  • Extreme terahertz science
  • Laser–plasma interaction
  • Radiation
  • Terahertz radiation

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