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We use a genetic algorithm to theoretically optimize several properties of extreme ultraviolet (XUV) radiation, generated as high-order harmonics in xenon and argon. We maximize the harmonic pulse energy, minimize the pulse duration or optimize the temporal coherence by varying at the same time two or three parameters that are easily accessible in experiments, related to the characteristics of the laser beam and the nonlinear medium. For the 15th and 29th harmonics in argon, we find up to 109 photons per pulse, and pulse durations as short as 6 fs generated by a 50 fs laser pulse. We can also tailor the phase matching conditions to spectrally select the transform-limited part of the harmonic radiation. This allows us to identify conditions when the time structure of the XUV radiation presents a train of attosecond pulses. We find that the optimum conditions for the different properties are in general not the same. They depend in particular on whether the harmonic belongs to the plateau or the cutoff region of the harmonic spectrum. This reflects the unavoidable interplay between the microscopic intensity-dependent harmonic phase and the macroscopic phase matching conditions imposed by a nonlinear medium interacting with an intense, focused laser beam.

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Journal of Physics B: Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics

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