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We develop and implement an experimental strategy for the generation of high-energy high-order harmonics (HHG) in gases for studies of nonlinear processes in the soft x-ray region. We generate high-order harmonics by focusing a high energy Ti:Sapphire laser into a gas cell filled with argon or neon. The energy per pulse is optimized by an automated control of the multiple parameters that influence the generation process. This optimization procedure allows us to obtain energies per pulse and harmonic order as high as 200 nJ in argon and 20 nJ in neon, with good spatial properties, using a loose focusing geometry ( ) and a 20 mm long medium. We also theoretically examine the macroscopic conditions for absorption-limited conversion efficiency and optimization of the HHG pulse energy for high-energy laser systems.


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