Provided are systems and methods to generate single-cycle THz pulses from a few tens of nanometers thin layer of split ring resonators (SRRs) via optical rectification of femtosecond laser pulses. The emitted THz radiation, with a spectrum ranging from about 0.1 to 4 THz, arises exclusively from pumping the magnetic-dipole resonance of SRRs around 200 THz. This resonant enhancement, together with pump polarization dependence and power scaling of the THz emission, underpins the nonlinearity from optically induced circulating currents in SRRs, with a huge effective nonlinear susceptibility of 0.8.times.10.sup.-16 m.sup.2/V that far exceeds surface nonlinearities of both thin films and bulk organic/inorganic crystals and sheet nonlinearities of non-centrosymmetric materials such as ZnTe.
STATEMENT REGARDING FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT
 This invention was made in part with Government support under Grant Number DE-ACO2-07CH11358 awarded by the Department of Energy. The Government has certain rights in this invention.