Reviews of Modern Physics vol:81 issue:2 pages:445-479
The investigation of high-order harmonic generation (HHG) of femtosecond laser pulses by means of laser-produced plasmas is surveyed. This kind of harmonic generation is an alternative to the HHG in gases and shows significantly higher conversion efficiency. Furthermore, with plasma targets there is no limitation on applicable laser intensity and thus the generated harmonics can be much more intense. In principle, harmonic light may also be generated at relativistic laser intensity, in which case their harmonic intensities may even exceed that of the focused laser pulse by many orders of magnitude. This phenomenon presents new opportunities for applications such as nonlinear optics in the extreme ultraviolet region, photoelectron spectroscopy, and opacity measurements of high-density matter with high temporal and spatial resolution. On the other hand, HHG is strongly influenced by the laser-plasma interaction itself. In particular, recent results show a strong correlation with high-energy electrons generated during the interaction process. The harmonics are a promising tool for obtaining information not only on plasma parameters such as the local electron density, but also on the presence of large electric and magnetic fields, plasma waves, and the (electron) transport inside the target. This paper reviews the theoretical and experimental progress on HHG via laser-plasma interactions and discusses the prospects for applying HHG as a short-wavelength, coherent optical tool.