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Lasers and Co
11. Lasers and Coherent Light Sources

11.3 Semiconductor Lasers............................ 695

This chapter describes lasers and other sources

Part C 11
11.3.1 Overview .................................... 695
of coherent light that operate in a wide wave-
11.3.2 Resonator Types
length range. First, the general principles for
and Modern Active Layer Materials:
the generation of coherent continuous-wave and Quantum Effects and Strain .......... 698
pulsed radiation are treated including the inter- 11.3.3 Edge-Emitting Laser Diodes
action of radiation with matter, the properties with Horizontal Resonators .......... 703
of optical resonators and their modes as well 11.3.4 Basics of Surface-Emitting Lasers
as such processes as Q-switching and mode- with Vertical Resonators (VCSELs) ... 720
locking. The general introduction is followed by 11.3.5 Edge-Emitting Lasers and VCSELs
sections on numerous types of lasers, the em- with Low-Dimensional Active
phasis being on today’s most important sources Regions...................................... 725
of coherent light, in particular on solid-state 11.3.6 Lasers with External Resonators .... 725
lasers and several types of gas lasers. An im-
portant part of the chapter is devoted to the 11.4 The CO2 Laser........................................ 726
generation of coherent radiation by nonlin- 11.4.1 Physical Principles....................... 726
11.4.2 Typical Technical Designs.............. 737
ear processes with optical parametric oscillators,
difference- and sum-frequency generation, and 11.5 Ion Lasers ............................................ 746
high-order harmonics. Radiation in the extended 11.5.1 Ion-Laser Physics ........................ 747
ultraviolet (EUV) and X-ray ranges can be gener- 11.5.2 Plasma Tube Design..................... 749
ated by free electron lasers (FEL) and advanced 11.5.3 Ion-Laser Resonators................... 751
X-ray sources. Ultrahigh light intensities up to 11.5.4 Electronics.................................. 753
1021 W/cm2 open the door to studies of relativistic 11.5.5 Ion-Laser Applications ................. 755
laser–matter interaction and laser particle accel-
eration. The chapter closes with a section on laser 11.6 The HeNe Laser ..................................... 756
stabilization. 11.6.1 The Active Medium ...................... 756
11.6.2 Construction and Design Principles 758
11.6.3 Stabilization ............................... 762
11.6.4 Manufacturing ............................ 763
11.1 Principles of Lasers ............................... 584 11.6.5 Applications ............................... 764
11.1.1 General Principles ....................... 584
11.1.2 Interaction of Radiation 11.7 Ultraviolet Lasers:
with Atoms................................. 590 Excimers, Fluorine (F2 ), Nitrogen (N2 ) ...... 764
11.1.3 Laser Resonators and Modes ......... 595 11.7.1 The Unique Properties
11.1.4 Laser Rate Equations of Excimer Laser Radiation ........... 765
and Continuous-Wave Operation .. 602 11.7.2 Technology of Current Excimer Lasers
11.1.5 Pulsed Laser Behavior .................. 605 and the N2 Laser ......................... 765
11.7.3 Applications ............................... 770
11.2 Solid-State Lasers ................................. 614 11.7.4 Outlook: Radiation in the EUV ....... 775
11.2.1 Basics ........................................ 614
11.2.2 UV and Visible Rare-Earth Ion 11.8 Dye Lasers ............................................ 777
Lasers ........................................ 619 11.8.1 Overview .................................... 777
11.2.3 Near-Infrared Rare Earth Lasers .... 636 11.8.2 General Description ..................... 777
11.2.4 Mid-Infrared Lasers ..................... 660 11.8.3 Flashlamp-Pumped Dye Lasers ..... 777
11.2.5 Transition-Metal-Ion Lasers ......... 674 11.8.4 Tunable Dye Lasers Pumped by
11.2.6 Overview of the most Important High-Power Short-Wavelength
Laser Ions in Solid-State Lasers ..... 694 Lasers ........................................ 778
584 Part C Coherent and Incoherent Light Sources

11.8.5 Colliding-Pulse Mode-Locked 11.12 X-ray and EUV Sources........................... 819

Dye Lasers .................................. 778 11.12.1 X-Ray Lasers ............................... 819
11.8.6 Tunable Continuous-Wave 11.12.2 High-Order Harmonics ................. 822
Dye Lasers .................................. 779
11.8.7 Advanced Solid-State Dye Lasers ... 779 11.13 Generation of Ultrahigh Light Intensities
and Relativistic Laser–Matter Interaction 827
11.9 Optical Parametric Oscillators................. 785 11.13.1 Laser Systems for the Generation
11.9.1 Optical Parametric Generation ...... 786 of Ultrahigh Intensities ................ 827
Part C 11.1

11.9.2 Phase Matching .......................... 787 11.13.2 Relativistic Optics

11.9.3 Optical Parametric Oscillators ........ 790 and Laser Particle Acceleration...... 834
11.9.4 Design and Performance
of Optical Parametric Oscillators .... 790 11.14 Frequency Stabilization of Lasers ........... 841
11.10 Generation of Coherent Mid-Infrared Ra- 11.14.1 Characterization
diation by Difference-Frequency Mixing . 801 of Noise, Stability, Line Width,
11.10.1 Difference-Frequency Generation Reproducibility, and Uncertainty
(DFG) ......................................... 802 of the Laser Frequency ................. 842
11.10.2 DFG Laser Sources ........................ 809 11.14.2 Basics
11.10.3 Outlook ...................................... 813 of Laser Frequency Stabilization .... 845
11.14.3 Examples
11.11 Free-Electron Lasers ............................. 814 of Frequency-Stabilized Lasers...... 852
11.11.1 Principle of Operation .................. 814 11.14.4 Measurement
11.11.2 Current Status and Perspective of Optical Frequencies ................. 863
Applications of Free-Electron 11.14.5 Conclusion and Outlook ............... 864
Lasers ........................................ 815
11.11.3 Suggested further reading ............ 819 References .................................................. 864

11.1 Principles of Lasers

11.1.1 General Principles determined by the properties of its active medium. Alto-
gether, several thousand lasing lines have been reported
A laser (an acronym for light amplification by stim- ranging from the soft-X-ray down to the far-infrared
ulated emission of radiation) is a device that produces spectral region and new lines appear frequently in optics
and amplifies an intense beam of highly coherent, highly and laser journals. Depending upon the type of laser and
directional light. The original proposal of extending the its operational regime, the corresponding output power
maser (microwave amplification by stimulated emission may vary from a fraction of a milliwatt to several hun-
of radiation) idea to the infrared or visible region of dred kilowatts in continuous-wave operation, and from
the electromagnetic (EM) spectrum, thus giving a laser, tens of kilowatts to petawatt peak power in pulsed-mode
was however first made in 1960 by Maiman [11.1] us- operation.
ing a flash-pumped rod of ruby with polished ends A laser consists of at least three components
(ruby laser) after a proposal in 1958 by Townes and (Fig. 11.1):
Schawlow [11.2]. Nowadays laser devices range in size
1. a gain medium that can amplify light by means of
from semiconductor lasers as small as a grain of salt to
the basic process of stimulated emission;
solid-state lasers as large as a storage building. Lasers
2. a pump source, which creates a population inversion
are widely used in industry for, e.g., cutting and weld-
in the gain medium;
ing metals and other materials, in medicine for surgery,
3. two mirrors that form a resonator or optical cavity
in optical communications, in optical metrology, and
in which light is trapped, traveling back and forth
in scientific research. They are an integral part of such
between the mirrors.
familiar devices as bar-code scanners used in supermar-
kets, laser printers, compact disc and digital versatile The laser beam is usually the fractional part of light
disc (DVD) players. The output wavelength of a laser is trapped in the cavity that escapes from one of the two
Lasers and Coherent Light Sources 11.1 Principles of Lasers 585

R1 = 100 % R2 a) b) c)
l E2 2 E2 2 E2 2
Laser beam hí
Gain medium hí hí hí


Pumping E1 1 E1 1 E1 1

Part C 11.1
Mirror Output
mirror Fig. 11.2a–c Fundamental interaction processes of a quan-
tized atom with an EM wave. (a) Spontaneous emission.
(b) Stimulated emission. (c) Absorption
Fig. 11.1 Schematic of a laser oscillator
the form of an EM wave, the process is referred to as
mirrors (the output coupler), which has a nonvanish- spontaneous, or radiative, emission (Fig. 11.2a). Owing
ing transmission at the laser oscillation wavelength. The to energy conservation, the frequency ν0 of the emitted
gain medium can be solid (including semiconductors), radiation is given by:
liquid, or gas, and the pump source can be an electrical (E 2 − E 1 )
discharge, a lamp, or another laser. Other specific com- ν0 = , (11.1)
ponents of a laser vary depending on the gain medium
and whether the laser is operated continuously or pulsed. where h is the Planck’s constant. Since the previous re-
Lasers may be in fact divided into two broad groups: lation can also be written as E 2 − E 1 = hν0 , we can say
that a single photon of energy hν0 is emitted during each
1. continuous wave (CW) or quasi-CW, spontaneous emission process. Note also that this pro-
2. pulsed. cess occurs even if the atom is isolated and no external
A CW laser exhibits a steady flow of coherent energy perturbation is applied. The probability of spontaneous
and its output power undergoes little or no change with emission can be characterized in the following way. Let
time. Many gas lasers, such as HeNe and Ar-ion lasers, us consider an ensemble of atoms and assume that, at
operate CW; several solid-state lasers, such as Nd3+ time t, there are N2 atoms per unit volume (population)
and Ti3+ :Al2 O3 lasers, are also often operated in CW in level 2.
mode. In pulsed lasers, the output beam power changes Quantum mechanical calculations show that the rate
with time so as to produce a short optical pulse, usu- of decay of these atoms due to spontaneous emission,
ally in a repetitive way and with pulse duration usually i. e., ( dN2 / dt)sp , is proportional to N2 according to:
ranging from nanoseconds (1 ns = 10−9 s) to femtosec-  
dN2 N2
onds (1 fs = 10−15 s). Typical examples of pulsed lasers =− , (11.2)
dt sp τs
are many solid-state and liquid lasers, such as Nd:YAG,
Ti:Al2 O3 , and dye lasers. where τs is referred to as the spontaneous emission life-
time and depends on the particular transition involved.
Spontaneous The direction, the polarization, and the phase of the
and Stimulated Emission, Absorption emission event are random, so that the overall emitted
A laser exploits three fundamental phenomena that occur light by the different atoms of the given population is
when an electromagnetic wave interacts with a mater- said to be incoherent.
ial, namely the processes of spontaneous and stimulated If the atom is not isolated but interacts, e.g., by col-
emission, and the process of absorption (Fig. 11.2). lisions with other atoms, the decay from the excited
state 2 to the ground state 1 may occur by a release
Spontaneous emission and nonradiative decay. Let of the internal energy (E 2 − E 1 ) into some form other
us consider the energy levels of some given material and than EM radiation (e.g., into kinetic or internal energy
indicate by E 1 and E 2 the energies of the ground level, of surrounding atoms in a gas or lattice vibrations in
1, and of an excited level, 2, of the medium. If the atom a crystal). The phenomenon is referred to as nonra-
is initially raised in the excited state 2, it spontaneously diative decay. The corresponding rate of decay from
tends to decay into the stable ground state 1. If the avail- the excited state 2 can usually be expressed in a sim-
able energy for the transition, E 2 − E 1 is released in ilar manner as (11.2), namely ( dN2 / dt)nr = −N2 /τnr ,
586 Part C Coherent and Incoherent Light Sources

where τnr is the nonradiative lifetime. When both radia- process of stimulated emission, the function σ21 (∆ν) is
tive and nonradiative decay are taken into account, the very narrow at around ∆ν = 0.
rate of decay of population N2 can be written as:
  Absorption. Lastly, let us consider the case of an atom
dN2 N2 N2 N2
=− − ≡− , (11.3) initially lying in its ground state 1. In the absence of
dt decay τs τnr τ perturbations, such as collisions with other atoms or with
where the time constant τ, defined by 1/τ = 1/τs + photons, the atom stably remains in this state. However,
Part C 11.1

1/τnr , is referred to as the lifetime of the excited state 2. if an EM radiation of frequency ν  ν0 is incident onto
the atom, there is a finite probability that the atom will be
Stimulated emission. If an EM wave of frequency ν raised to level 2. The energy difference E 2 − E 1 required
close to ν0 is incident onto the atom while in its excited by the atom to undergo the transition is obtained from
state 2, the interaction of the wave with the atom may the energy of the EM wave, namely one photon of the
stimulate the atom to decay to level 1 with the simultane- incoming wave is destroyed. This process is referred to
ous emission of EM radiation. The process is referred to as absorption (Fig. 11.2c). As for stimulated emission,
as stimulated emission. In this case, one photon, with the the absorption process can be described by
same frequency ν of the incoming radiation and with the  
same propagation direction, polarization state and phase = −W12 N2 , (11.5)
dt a
is emitted (Fig. 11.2b). This is a major distinction to
spontaneous emission. It is the fundamental reason why where W12 is the rate of absorption. Again one can show
a laser emits coherent light as compared to the incoher- that W12 = σ12 F, where σ12 is the absorption cross
ent light emitted by other light sources [such as lamps section. Einstein showed at the beginning of the 20th
or light-emitting diodes (LEDs)], which exploit sponta- century that, for nondegenerate levels, W12 = W21 , and
neous emission. Quantum mechanical calculations show thus σ12 = σ21 . If levels 1 and 2 are g1 -fold and g2 -fold
that the process of stimulated emission can be described degenerate, respectively, one then has g2 σ21 = g1 σ12 .
by the equation
  Coherent Amplification of Light
= −W21 N2 , (11.4) Consider a monochromatic EM plane wave at fre-
dt st quency ν which propagates along the z-direction inside
where W21 is the rate of stimulated emission. This rate is a medium made of a collection of atoms. Let E 1 and E 2
proportional to the photon flux F = I/(hν) of the incom- be the energies of two nondegenerate levels 1 and 2 of
ing wave, where I is the wave intensity. We can in fact the atom (this time 1 is not necessarily the ground state).
write W21 = σ21 F, where σ21 is a quantity having the We assume that the resonance frequency of the transi-
dimension of an area (the stimulated emission cross sec- tion, ν0 = (E 2 − E 1 )/h, is coincident (or very close) to
tion), which depends on the characteristics of the given ν. If F(z) is the photon flux of the EM wave at plane z
transition and on the frequency difference ∆ν = ν − ν0 , and N1 , N2 are the populations in levels 1 and 2 (which
i. e., σ21 = σ21 (∆ν). Owing to energy conservation in the are assumed to be z-independent), the change dF of the
photon flux due to the processes of absorption and stim-
ulated emission along the elemental length dz of the
a) b) material is given by (Fig. 11.3a)

óaa óa
S dF = σ(N2 − N1 )F(z) dz , (11.6)

F (z) F (z + dz)
óa óa
where σ ≡ σ21 = σ12 is the transition cross section. Note
óa that in writing (11.6) we did not consider radiative and
z óa
nonradiative decays since nonradiative decay does not
óa add new photons whereas spontaneous emission cre-
ates photons which are emitted in any direction and
thus gives negligible contribution to the incoming pho-
ton flux. Most importantly, note that for N2 > N1 , one
Fig. 11.3a,b Coherent amplification of an EM wave. (a) Photon has dF/ dz > 0 and the EM wave is amplified during
flux-balance diagram in an infinitesimal section dz of the amplifier. propagation, i. e., the medium acts as a coherent optical
(b) Physical meaning of the transition cross section amplifier. Conversely, for N2 < N1 , one has dF/ dz < 0
Lasers and Coherent Light Sources 11.1 Principles of Lasers 587

and the medium behaves as an absorber. If we let l be tical amplification instead of optical absorption, we need
the length of the medium, the photon flux F(l) at the out- to create population inversion in the medium by means
put plane is related to the one F(0) at the input plane by of a pumping process [11.3, 4], which drives the popu-
the relation F(l) = F(0) exp(g), where g = (N2 − N1 )σl lation distribution far from thermal equilibrium. At first
is the gain coefficient. The condition for light amplifica- sight one might think to achieve population inversion
tion (g > 0) is therefore N2 > N1 , which is often referred between levels 2 and 1 through the interaction of the
to as population inversion. We note that in the previous material with some strong EM radiation at frequency

Part C 11.1
calculation N1 and N2 have been assumed independent ν0 , such as that emitted by a flash or arc lamp. Since
of the intensity I of propagating wave. This is fine how- at thermal equilibrium N1e > N2e , absorption will domi-
ever provided that I is weak enough so as that changes nate over stimulated emission, and this will produce an
of N1 and N2 due to absorption and stimulated emis- increase of N2 and a decrease of N1 from their thermal
sions can be neglected; however, for strong intensities equilibrium values. However, when N1 tends to reach
one needs to account for the phenomenon of saturation. the same value of N2 , absorption and stimulated emis-
As a final comment, we note that an examination of sion processes compensate each other, i. e., the medium
(11.6) leads to a simple physical interpretation of the tends to become transparent. Such a situation is referred
transition cross section σ. First, let us suppose that all to as saturation of the two-level transition. Therefore,
the atoms of the medium are in the ground state and let owing to saturation, it is impossible to produce popu-
us associate with each atom an effective absorption cross lation inversion in a two-level system (at least in the
section σa in the sense that, if a photon enters this cross steady state). This goal can be achieved, however, when
section, it is absorbed by the atom (Fig. 11.3b). If S is more than two energy levels are considered. Typically
the cross-sectional area of the EM wave, the number of three or four energy levels are involved (Fig. 11.4), and
atoms in the element dz of the material is Nt S dz (Nt is correspondingly one speaks of three-level or four-level
the total atomic population, i. e., N1 = Nt and N2 = 0), lasers. In a three-level laser (Fig. 11.4a), atoms are raised
thus giving a total absorption cross section of σa Nt S dz. from the ground level 1 to the level 3 through a pump-
The fractional decrease of photon flux in the element dz ing mechanism. If the material is such that, once an
of the material is therefore ( dF/F) = −(σa Nt S dz/S) = atom excited into level 3 rapidly decays into a lower
−σa Nt dz. If we compare this expression with (11.6), level 2 (by, e.g., a fast nonradiative decay), then popu-
we conclude that σa = σ, so that the meaning we can lation inversion can be obtained between level 2 and 1.
attribute to σ is that of an effective absorption cross Note that, in a three-level laser scheme, to achieve pop-
section as just defined. ulation inversion it is necessary to raise at least half of
the atoms from the ground state 1 to state 3. In a four-
Population Inversion: The Pumping Process level laser (Fig. 11.4b), atoms are again raised from the
At thermal equilibrium any material behaves as an ab- ground level 0 to an excited state 3, with a rapid decay
sorber. In fact, the distribution of populations N2e and to the upper laser level 2; however this time laser ac-
N1e of levels 1 and 2 at thermal equilibrium is described tion takes place from level 2 to an excited lower-lying
by the Boltzmann statistics level 1. Once laser oscillation starts, level 1 is populated
  by stimulated emission; therefore to maintain popula-
N2e E2 − E1
= exp − , (11.7)
N1e kB T
where kB is the Boltzmann constant and T is the absolute a) b)
temperature. Note that N2e < N1e ; in particular N2e is neg- Pump level Pump level
3 3
ligible as compared to N1e if kB T  E 2 − E 1 ; at room Fast decay Fast decay
temperature (T = 300 K) one has kB T  208 cm−1 . 2 2
[A reciprocal centimeter is a simple convenient unit
for measuring energies in spectroscopy and refers to Laser
Pumping Pumping
the inverse of the wavelength of a photon possess- 1
ing the given energy E. The actual energy E in the Fast decay
SI unit (Joule) can be obtained by multiplying cm−1 1 0
Ground state Ground state
by hc, with c = 3 × 1010 cm/s and h = 6.63 × 10−34 Js].
Therefore the condition N2e  N1e is well satisfied for Fig. 11.4a,b Schematic of the energy-level diagram for (a) a three-
transitions in the near-infrared and visible. To obtain op- level laser, and (b) a four-level laser
588 Part C Coherent and Incoherent Light Sources

tion inversion in stationary conditions (continuous-wave by the active medium. Solid-state gain media, such as
operation), the lower laser level 1 should rapidly depop- Nd:YAG, and liquid lasers are particularly well suited
ulate through, e.g., a very fast nonradiative decay into to optical pumping: absorption lines are in fact very
the ground state 0. Compared to a three-level laser, the broad and this makes the absorption of the (broadband)
four-level laser offers the great advantage that population light of the lamps efficient. The flashlamps generate sig-
inversion is ideally achieved when just one atom is raised nificant heat into the material that must be dissipated
to the pumping level 3. Four-level lasers are thus more by water cooling. The pumping source may, however,
Part C 11.1

used, whenever possible, than three-level lasers. More itself be a laser; in this case one speaks of laser pump-
recently, the so-called quasi-three-level lasers have also ing. Among the most used laser pump sources, we just
become a rather important laser category. In these lasers mention semiconductor lasers (diode laser pumping),
the energy level scheme is similar to that of a four-level argon-ion laser and second-harmonic or third-harmonic
laser, however levels 0 and 1 are now nondegenerate generation of Nd lasers. With the advent of powerful
sublevels of the ground energy level. The population of and reliable semiconductor lasers, diode-laser pumping
the ground state is distributed in all the sublevels ac- is nowadays commonplace for many solid-state and fiber
cording to Boltzmann statistics, and therefore, at room lasers.
temperature, some population is left in level 1.
The mechanism that allows atom excitation from the Electrical pumping. In gas lasers and semiconductor
ground energy level into the excited pump level 3 is re- lasers, the excitation mechanism usually consists of
ferred to as the pumping process. The rate of population an electrical current flow through the active medium.
of the upper state, 2, due to the pumping, ( dN2 / dt)p , Gas lasers generally need to be electrically pumped be-
can be written as: cause, due to the small width of their absorption lines,
  optical pumping would be very inefficient. In gas lasers,
= Wp Ng , (11.8) electrical pumping is achieved by passing an electric
dt p
current either CW, at radio frequency or pulsed, directly
where Wp is the pumping rate and Ng is the popula- through the gas itself. During the discharge, ions and
tion of the ground state. For a four-level laser, one can free electrons are produced which acquire kinetic en-
assume Ng to be constant (and much larger than N2 ). ergy from the applied field and are able to excite neutral
In this case one can write from (11.8) ( dN2 / dt)p = Rp , atoms via collisions: A + e → A∗ + e, where A∗ denotes
where Rp = Wp Ng is the pump rate per unit volume. The the atomic species in an excited state. Since electron im-
energy required for pumping is generally supplied either pact excitation is a nonresonant process, it is a rather
optically or electrically. The minimum pump power Pm efficient pumping method for a gas. In some cases, the
needed to produce a given pump rate Rp is given by gas may contain two species, one of which is first excited
Pm = ( dN2 / dt)p Vhνmp , where ( dN2 / dt)p is the num- by the discharge and then undergoes resonant energy
ber of atoms per unit volume and time raised to the upper transfer with the other via collision (an example is the
laser level by the pumping process, V is the volume of HeNe laser). Electrical pumping in semiconductor lasers
the active medium, and νmp is the minimum pump fre- is achieved by flowing a large current density in a p–n
quency, given by the difference between the ground level or p–i–n diode. Though optical pumping can be used for
and the upper laser level. For either electrical or opti- semiconductor lasers, electrical pumping proves to be
cal pumping, the actual pump power Pp turns out to be much more convenient.
larger than the minimum value Pm , so that one can define Pumping processes different from optical or elec-
a pump efficiency ηp = Pm /Pp . Therefore, the relation trical pumping may also be employed in some special
between the pump rate Rp and the actual pump power lasers; we just mention chemical pumping in chemical
Pp is given by: lasers, where population inversion is produced directly
  from an exothermic reaction.
Rp = ηp . (11.9)
Vhνmp Laser Oscillation
To obtain laser oscillation, the amplifying medium is
Optical pumping. In optical pumping by an incoherent placed between two mirrors, forming a laser cavity
source, light from a powerful lamp (usually medium- to (Fig. 11.1). Light propagating along the cavity axis and
high-pressure Xe and Kr flashlamps for pulsed lasers, passing through the pumped laser medium is reflected
or high-pressure Kr lamps for CW lasers) is absorbed back through it, stimulating further emission in the same
Lasers and Coherent Light Sources 11.1 Principles of Lasers 589

direction. This means that laser photons undergo mul- be calculated from a balance between the number of
tiple reflections within the cavity, being amplified at atoms pumped per unit volume and time in the upper
each pass through the laser medium. One mirror (to- laser level and the number of atoms that decay via ra-
tal reflector) reflects almost all the incident light back diative and nonradiative ways. Assuming N1  0, one
through the laser medium while the other (partial reflec- obtains ∆N  N2 = Rp τ. When N2 = Nc , from the pre-
tor or output coupler) transmits a fraction T2 = 1 − R2 , vious equation and with the help of (11.10) the critical
which constitutes the output laser beam. The combina- pump rate is obtained as Rcp = γ /(στl). Note that the

Part C 11.1
tion of laser gain medium, pumping source and optical critical pump rate increases as στ decreases. Therefore
cavity forms a simple laser oscillator: if the amplifi- the product στ, which depends on the properties of the
cation is large enough to overcame losses, i. e., when given transition, can be regarded as a figure of merit for
a threshold condition is reached, a single photon (which a given laser.
is always present due to quantum noise) can be ampli-
fied by several orders of magnitude to produce a huge Properties of Laser Beams
number of coherently generated photons trapped inside Laser radiation shows an extremely high degree
the resonator. In addition, for an open resonator, only the of monochromaticity, coherence, directionality and
photons which propagate in the paraxial direction of the brightness as compared to other noncoherent light
resonator axis can reach the threshold for oscillation, so sources [11.3].
that an important property of the output laser beam is that The monochromaticity of laser radiation results from
it is directional. We can obtain the threshold condition the circumstance that light oscillation sets in at one res-
for laser action by a simple argument based on gain/loss onance frequency of the optical cavity, and owing to the
balance of light photons in one cavity round-trip. In balance between gain and loss in CW operation the line
fact, in one round-trip the photons pass twice through width ∆νL of the oscillating mode is ultimately limited
the gain medium and hence the round-trip gain of pho- by quantum noise. Conversely, light from incoherent
tons is exp(2σ Nl), where N = N2 − N1 is the population sources which exploit spontaneous emission (including
inversion, and l is the length of the active medium. On LEDs) has a much lower degree of monochromaticity (as
the other hand, the round-trip loss for photons can be much as 11 orders of magnitude) since the spectral distri-
written as (1 − T1 )(1 − T2 )(1 − L i )2 , where T1 = 1 − R1 bution of spontaneously emitted photons is broadened at
and T2 = 1 − R2 are the power transmission of the two around the atomic resonance frequency ν0 owing to var-
mirrors whereas L i accounts for the one-way internal ious broadening mechanisms. For laser radiation in the
loss in the cavity (due to, e.g., scattering or diffraction visible or near-infrared, line widths ∆νL as low as a few
loss for open resonators). The population inversion Nc Hz may, in fact, be achieved in frequency-stabilized laser
needed to reach threshold (also called critical inversion) sources.
is simply obtained by equating the round-trip gain and The coherence of laser radiation refers to either tem-
loss. After setting γ1 = −ln(1 − T1 ), γ2 = −ln(1 − T2 ) poral or spatial coherence. To define spatial coherence,
and γi = −ln(1 − L i ), the critical inversion turns out to let us consider two points P1 and P2 that, at a time t = 0,
be given by belong to the same wavefront, i. e., the phase difference
γ between their electric fields at time t = 0 is zero. If the
Nc = , (11.10) difference ϕ2 (t) − ϕ1 (t) of their phases also remains zero
σl at times t > 0, we say that there is perfect spatial coher-
where ence between the two points P1 and P2 . In practice, for
γ1 + γ2 any point P1 , in order to have some degree of phase cor-
γ = γi + (11.11) relation, point P2 must lie within some finite area around
2 P1 , which is called the coherence area. The high degree
is referred to as the single-pass logarithmic loss of the of spatial coherence of laser radiation stems again from
cavity. Once the critical inversion is reached, oscillation the fact that the spatial field distribution of the beam gen-
builds up from spontaneous emission. erated by stimulated emission is a mode of the optical
To calculate the pump rate Rcp needed to reach the resonator.
threshold condition (the critical pump rate), let us con- To define temporal coherence at a given point P, let
sider the four-level laser (Fig. 11.4b). In steady-state us consider the phase difference ϕ(t + τ) − ϕ(t) for the
conditions and in the absence of lasing, the popula- electric field at P at times t + τ and t. For a given de-
tion accumulated on the upper laser level can simply lay τ, if the phase difference is independent of time t,
590 Part C Coherent and Incoherent Light Sources

we say that there is temporal coherence over a time τ. 11.1.2 Interaction of Radiation with Atoms
If this occurs for any value of τ, the EM wave is said
to have perfect temporal coherence. If, conversely, this Absorption and Stimulated Emission Rates
occurs only for delays τ smaller than a given delay τ0 , Consider a monochromatic EM wave of frequency ν in-
the wave is said to have partial temporal coherence, cident on a two-level atom with a transition frequency
and τ0 is called the coherence time of the EM wave at ν0 = (E 2 − E 1 )/h close to ν. The calculation of the ab-
point P. The concept of temporal coherence is closely sorption and stimulated emission rates W12 and W21 can
Part C 11.1

related to that of monochromaticity; in fact, for a CW be done following a semiclassical approach, in which
laser one can show that the coherence time τ0 is re- the atom is treated quantum mechanically whereas the
lated to the laser line width ∆νL by the simple relation EM wave classically [11.3,5–9]. If the atom is initially in
τ0 ≈ 1/∆νL . The high degree of temporal coherence of its ground state (level 1), the incident wave may induce
laser radiation is therefore due to its extreme degree of a transition to level 2 owing to the coupling of the elec-
monochromaticity. tromagnetic field with the electric and magnetic dipole
The directionality of the laser beam is due to the fact (and multipole) moments of the atom. The strongest in-
that the gain medium is placed inside an open optical teraction is usually that arising between the electric field
resonator and, as a consequence, stimulated emission E(t) = E0 cos(2πνt) of the EM and the electric dipole
preferentially occurs in the direction orthogonal to the moment of the transition, which is defined by the ma-
two cavity mirrors (Fig. 11.1), where feedback from the trix dipole element µ12 = u ∗2 (r)eru 1 (r) dr, where r is
mirrors is most effective and diffraction losses are the the distance of the electron of the atom, with charge
smallest. The laser beam emitted from the output cou- e, from its nucleus, and where u 1 (r) and u 2 (r) are the
pler shows a divergence angle which, in the ideal case, is electronic eigenfunctions for the atomic energy levels 1
limited by diffraction. From diffraction theory, the diver- and 2 respectively. In this electric-dipole approximation,
gence angle for a monochromatic beam of wavelength a perturbation theory, which assumes that the interaction
λ turns out to be given by between the EM wave and the atom is not disturbed by,
  e.g., collisions or other phenomena (including sponta-
θd = β , (11.12) neous emission), leads to the following expression for
2w the absorption and stimulated emission rate
where β is a numerical coefficient (of order 1) whose 2π 2
specific value depends on the particular transverse field W12 = W21 = |µ12 |2 ρδ(ν − ν0 ) , (11.14)
3n 2 0 h 2
distribution and 2w is the diameter of the beam. For
example, considering laser radiation in the visible (λ = where ρ = n 2 0 E 02 /2 is the energy density of the EM
500 nm), the divergence of a laser beam of transverse wave, n is the refractive index of the medium, and δ is the
diameter 2w ≈ 1 cm is solely θd ≈ λ/2w  5 × 10−5 rad. impulse Dirac function. In particular, for a plane wave
This means that, after propagation for a length L = 1 km, of intensity I = cρ/n, from (11.14) the following ex-
the beam size is increased to solely w + θd L ≈ 6 cm! pression for the cross section σ12 = W12 /F = hνW12 /I
The brightness of laser radiation is closely related to can be derived:
the directionality and stems from the capability of a laser 2π 2
oscillator to emit a high optical power in a small solid σ12 = |µ12 |2 νδ(ν − ν0 ) . (11.15)
3n 0 ch
angle of space. For a given emitting source, of area ∆S,
if P denotes the optical power delivered in a fractional Analogously, if initially the electron is on level 2, owing
solid angle ∆Ω of space, the brightness of the emitter to the interaction with the EM wave there is a prob-
is defined as B = P/(∆S∆Ω). The brightness of a laser ability that the electron decays into state 1 emitting
source, in which the solid angle of emission ∆Ω is a photon by stimulated emission. The semiclassical per-
determined by its divergence angle θd , is given by turbation calculation leads for the stimulated emission
cross section σ21 = hνW21 /I the same expression as that
  of σ12 , i. e., σ21 = σ12 , provided that the two levels are
2 2
B= P. (11.13) not degenerate.
The expression for σ12 = σ21 as given by (11.15) is
A laser of moderate power (e.g., a few milliwatts) has unphysical since it implies that the transition probability
a brightness several orders of magnitude greater than is zero for ν = ν0 and ∞ for ν = ν0 . The inconsis-
that of the brightest conventional sources. tency is removed by observing that the interaction of
Lasers and Coherent Light Sources 11.1 Principles of Lasers 591

the monochromatic EM wave with the atom is not per-

fectly coherent, but it is disturbed by, e.g., collisions a) g b) g*
with other atoms or with lattice phonons, spontaneous Äí*0
emission and nonradiative decay of the atom. The effect 0.637
of such disturbing interactions is to broaden the tran- Äí0
sition line of each atom in the ensemble, in the sense
that in (11.15) the Dirac δ function δ(ν − ν0 ) should be Äí0

Part C 11.1
replaced by a new function g(ν − ν0 ), symmetric about
ν = ν0 with g(ν − ν0 )dν = 1, which is generally given 0 í – í0 0 í– í0
by the Lorentzian function (Fig. 11.5a):
Fig. 11.5 Lorentzian (left side) and Gaussian (right side) line
2 1 shapes corresponding to homogeneous and inhomogeneous tran-
g(ν − ν0 ) = , (11.16)
π∆ν0 1 + [2(ν − ν0 )/∆ν0 ]2 sition broadening, respectively

where ∆ν0 depends on the particular broadening mecha- assumes the most general form:
nism involved. Note that the full width at half-maximum
(FWHM) of the Lorentzian function is simply ∆ν0 . 2π 2
σ= |µ12 |2 νgt (ν − ν0 ) , (11.18)
The resonant character of the stimulated emission and 3n 0 ch
absorption processes is maintained since the line broad- where the total line shape gt is given by the convolution:
ening ∆ν0 is typically several orders of magnitude 
smaller than ν0 (e.g., in a low-pressure gas, for a tran- gt (ν − ν0 ) = g∗ (ν0 − ν0 )g(ν − ν0 ) dν0 . (11.19)
sition in the visible one has ν0 ≈ 5 × 1014 Hz whereas
∆ν0 ≈ 106 –108 Hz). Since the aforementioned broad- If we consider an ensemble of atoms and indicate by
ening mechanism act in the same way on each atom N1 and N2 the populations of atoms in the energy
of the ensemble, it is referred to as a homogeneous levels 1 and 2, as discussed in the previous section
broadening mechanism. a small-signal EM wave of frequency ν which prop-
A somewhat different case occurs when the reso- agates inside the medium experiences amplification
nance frequencies ν0 of the atoms in the ensemble are for N2 > N1 or absorption for N2 < N1 . In the for-
distributed around a central frequency ν0 (inhomoge- mer case, one can introduce the absorption coefficient
neous broadening). This distribution
 is described by the per unit length α(ν) = σ(ν − ν0 )(N1 − N2 ), whereas
function g∗ (ν0 − ν0 ) such that g∗ (ν0 − ν0 ) dν0 = 1 and in the latter case one can introduce the gain coeffi-
g∗ (ν0 − ν0 ) dν0 is the fractional part of the atoms in the cient per unit length g(ν) = σ(ν − ν0 )(N2 − N1 ). For
ensemble whose resonance frequency lies in the inter- a weak-signal wave, so that saturation can be ne-
val (ν0 , ν0 + dν0 ). For the most common mechanisms glected, the intensity of the propagating wave is thus
of inhomogeneous line broadening (such as Doppler exponentially attenuated or amplified along the propa-
broadening in a gas or local-field effects in ionic crys- gation direction according to I(z) = I(0) exp(−αz) or
tals or glasses) the distribution g∗ (ν0 − ν0 ) is given by I(z) = I(0) exp(gz), respectively.
a Gaussian function (Fig. 11.5b): These considerations apply to atomic or molecu-
  lar transitions which are electric-dipole allowed, i. e.,
2 ln2 1/2 for which the dipole matrix element µ12 of the tran-
g∗ (ν0 − ν0 ) =
∆ν0∗ π sition does not vanish. Transitions between atomic or
  molecular energy levels with the same parity (e.g., be-
4ln2(ν0 − ν0 )2 tween s states in an atom) are electric-dipole forbidden.
× exp − , (11.17)
∆ν0∗2 This does not mean however that the atom or molecule
cannot pass from level 1 to level 2 when interacting
where ∆ν0∗ is the transition line width (FWHM), which with an EM wave; in this case the transition can oc-
depends on the particular broadening mechanism. cur owing to the interaction of the EM wave with, e.g.,
Taking into account the simultaneous presence the magnetic dipole moment (or the electric quadrupole
of both homogeneous and inhomogeneous broaden- moment) of the transition, though the strength of the
ing mechanisms, one can show that the cross section cross section describing this process is much smaller
σ = σ12 = σ21 for stimulated emission and absorption than that of an allowed electric dipole transition. For an
592 Part C Coherent and Incoherent Light Sources

electric dipole transition the absorption transition rate where ρ(ν) is such that ρ(ν) dν is the EM energy per
W e is proportional to ∼ |µ e E 0 |2 , where µ e is the elec- unit volume of the cavity associated to modes with fre-
tric dipole moment of the transition, E 0 the amplitude of quencies in the interval (ν, ν + dν). We note that in
the electric field of the EM wave and −E 0 µ e is the clas- (11.21) the factor (8πν2 /c3 ) represents the density of
sical energy of an electric dipole in an external field E 0 . EM modes per unit volume of the cavity, whereas the
Likewise, for a magnetic dipole interaction, the transi- term hν/[exp(hν/kB T ) − 1] is the energy per mode. The
tion rate Wm is proportional to ∼ |µm B0 |2 , where µm populations N1e and N2e in the atomic levels 1 and 2 at
Part C 11.1

is the magnetic dipole of the transition, B0 is the ampli- thermal equilibrium are described by a Boltzmann statis-
tude of the magnetic field of the EM wave, and −B0 µm tics (11.7); on the other hand, at steady state the number
is the classical energy of a magnetic dipole in an exter- of excitation per unit time from level 1 to level 2 due
nal magnetic field B0 . By approximating µ e ≈ ea and to the absorption of black-body radiation should bal-
µm ≈ β, where a = 0.529 × 10−10 m is the Bohr radius ance the number of decays per unit time from level 2 to
and β = 9.27 × 10−24 Am2 is the Bohr magneton, one level 1 due to both stimulated emission and spontaneous
then obtains: emission, i. e., W12 N1e = W21 N2e + N2e /τs . One then
      obtains 1/τs = W12 exp(hν0 /kT ) − W21 . For a spec-
We eaE 0 2 eac 2
= =  105 . (11.20) trally broad radiation (such as  black-body radiation)
Wm β B0 β one can write W12 = W21 = dνcσ(ν − ν0 )ρ(ν)/nhν
= 2π 2 |µ12 |2 ρ(ν0 )/(3n 2 0 h 2 ), where we used (11.15).
Spontaneous Emission Using this expression for W12 = W21 and (11.21) for
Spontaneous emission is the phenomenon by which ρ(ν0 ), one finally obtains
an atom in an excited energy level tends to decay to- 3h 0 c3
ward the ground state (even in absence of any external τs = . (11.22)
perturbation) by emitting an EM wave, i. e., one photon. 16π 3 ν03 n|µ12 |2
A correct explanation of spontaneous emission requires Using a similar thermodynamic argument, one can also
a quantum electrodynamic approach in which both the show that the spectrum of the photon emitted by spon-
atom and the EM field are quantized. In practice, due to taneous emission is given by the line shape gt (ν − ν0 ) of
quantization of the EM field, the mean values of both the transition (11.19), i. e., the probability that the pho-
E 2 and H 2 fields are nonvanishing even in the absence ton emitted by spontaneous emission has a frequency in
of a (classical) EM wave (zero-point field fluctuations). the range (ν, ν + dν) is given by gt (ν − ν0 ) dν. This prop-
Such intrinsic fluctuations always perturb the atom in an erty is very interesting since it enables one to measure
excited state and trigger its decay toward a lower energy the transition line shape gt (ν − ν0 ) simply in an emission
level with the emission of one photon with frequency experiment by passing the spontaneously emitted light
ν close to the atomic transition frequency ν0 . Atomic through a spectrometer of sufficiently high resolution.
decay due to spontaneous emission follows an exponen- To estimate the radiative lifetime τs , let us con-
tial law with a time constant τs , which is referred to sider for instance an electric-dipole-allowed transition
as the spontaneous emission lifetime [see (11.2)]. The at a frequency corresponding to the middle of the visi-
quantum electrodynamic calculation of τs in the electric ble range (λ0 = c/ν0 = 500 nm). Assuming |µ12 |  ea
dipole approximation and for an atom placed in an op- (where a  0.1 nm is the atomic radius), from (11.22)
tical cavity was done by Weisskopf and Wigner [11.10]. one obtains τs  10 ns. For a magnetic dipole transition
A simple and rigorous calculation of τs may be derived 1/τs turns out to be 105 times smaller, i. e., τs  1 ms.
using an elegant thermodynamic argument, which was Note that, according to (11.22), τs decreases as the cube
proposed by Einstein well before any development of the of the transition frequency, so that the importance of
quantum electrodynamics [11.11]. Assume that the ma- spontaneous emission increases rapidly with frequency.
terial is placed inside a black-body cavity whose walls This implies that, as spontaneous emission is often neg-
are kept at a constant temperature T . Once the thermo- ligible in the middle- to far-infrared, where nonradiative
dynamic equilibrium is reached, the spectral EM energy decay dominates, in the X-ray region (e.g., λ0 < 5 nm)
density distribution ρ(ν) inside the cavity is given by the spontaneous emission is the dominant decay process
Planck distribution and τs becomes exceedingly short (10–100 fs). Such
  a short lifetime represents a major challenge for achiev-
8πν2 hν
ρ(ν) = (11.21) ing a population inversion in X-ray lasers. It should
c3 exp(hν/kT ) − 1 finally be noted that the rate of spontaneous emission as
Lasers and Coherent Light Sources 11.1 Principles of Lasers 593

given by (11.22) can be either enhanced or reduced when

the atom radiates in a dielectric cavity whose density of 1
EM modes (i. e., the number of resonant cavity modes í
per unit frequency and per unit volume) is changed from
the value (8πν2 /c3 ) due to, e.g., tight spatial confine-
ment, such as in microlasers. For instance, spontaneous t
decay is fully inhibited for an atom placed inside a pho-

Part C 11.1
tonic crystal whenever the atomic transition frequency
ν0 falls inside a bandgap of the photonic crystal. ô

Line Broadening Mechanisms Fig. 11.6 Schematic of the sinusoidal electric field of fre-
Homogeneous broadening. A line broadening mech- quency ν showing random phase jumps at time intervals τ
anism is said to be homogeneous when it broadens the
line of each atom in the same way. In this case the line by W12 = σ12 (ν − ν0 )I/hν, where the cross section σ12
shape of the single-atom cross section and that of the is given by (11.15) after replacing the delta function
overall absorption cross section are identical. There are δ(ν − ν0 ) with g(ν − ν0 ). To calculate the line shape g,
two main homogeneous broadening mechanisms: colli- let us assume that the distribution of the time interval τ
sional broadening and natural broadening. between two successive collisions be described by an ex-
Collisional broadening occurs in a gas, where the ponential probability density, p(τ) = [exp(−τ/τc )]/τc ,
atom may collide with other atoms, ions, free elec- where τc is the mean value of τ. According to the
trons, or with the walls of the container, as well as in Wiener–Kintchine theorem, the spectrum g can be cal-
a solid, where collisions are due to the interaction of culated as the Fourier transform of the autocorrelation
the atom with the lattice phonons. During a process of function of the sinusoidal field with phase jumps at
absorption or stimulated emission of a two-level atom time intervals τ (Fig. 11.6). This yields a Lorentzian
with a monochromatic EM wave, the collisions inter- line shape (11.16) with a FWHM of ∆ν0 , related to the
rupt the coherent interaction of the EM with the atom; mean value of collision time τc by the equation
if we write the electronic wave function ψ of the atom 1
during the transition as ψ = c1 (t)u 1 (r) exp[−iE 1 t/ ] + ∆ν0 = . (11.23)
c2 (t)u 2 (r) exp[−iE 2 t/ ], assuming that the collision πτc
does not induce a decay, it simply introduces a ran- For instance, for an atomic or molecular gas at pres-
dom and rather instantaneous relative phase jump of the sure p and absolute temperature T , from kinetic theory
coefficients c1 and c2 , and
 thus of the oscillating part of and employing the hard-sphere model of a gas, one has
the atomic dipole µ = −er|ψ(r, t)|2 dr, which is pro- τc = (2MkB T/3)1/2 [1/(8π pa2 )], where M is the atomic
portional to c1 c∗2 . Since in the electric-dipole interaction mass and a its radius. Note that τc is inversely propor-
the radiation–atom coupling is expressed by the energy tional, and hence ∆ν0 is directly proportional, to the gas
term −µ e E, a different but equivalent picture is to as- pressure p. As a rough rule of thumb, we can say that,
sume that it is the phase of the electric field that shows for any atom in a gas, collisions contribute to the line
random phase jumps rather than the atomic dipole mo- broadening by an amount (∆νcoll / p) ≈ 1 MHz/Torr.
ment (Fig. 11.6). Therefore we can consider the case of For an atom or an ion in a crystal, collisions occur
coherent (i. e., not disturbed) interaction of the two-level with lattice phonons. Since the number of phonons in
atom with an EM wave which is not monochromatic but a given lattice vibration is strongly dependent on the
whose spectral content is broadened at around ν owing lattice temperature T , the corresponding line broad-
to the phase jumps. Let I(ν ) = Ig(ν − ν) be the spec- ening ∆ν0 increases with increasing values of T . For
tral intensity distribution of the EM wave with random instance, in the Nd:YAG laser Nd3+ ions are hosted
phase jumps (Fig. 11.6), where I is the total field inten- in the YAG crystal, and collision broadening increases
sity and g its spectral shape (with g(ν − ν) dν = 1). from ∆ν0 ≈ 126 GHz at room temperature (T = 300 K)
For each fractional spectral component Ig(ν − ν) dν of to about 250 GHz at T = 400 K.
the EM wave, we may introduce an elemental absorp- A second homogeneous line broadening mechanism
tion transition rate dW12 given, according to (11.14), by originates from spontaneous emission and is referred
dW12 = [2π 2 |µ12 |2 /(3n 0 ch 2 )]δ(ν
 − ν0 )Ig(ν − ν) dν . to as natural (or intrinsic) line broadening. It can be
The total transition rate, W12 = dW12 , is then given shown that the natural broadening is again described by
594 Part C Coherent and Incoherent Light Sources

a Lorentzian function with a FWHM of ∆ν0 given by the HeNe laser, at T = 300 K and using the appropriate
1 mass for Ne, one obtains ∆ν0∗  1.7 GHz. As a general
∆ν0 = , (11.24) rule, Doppler broadening in a gas is usually larger than
collisional broadening for a gas pressure lower than the
where τs is the spontaneous lifetime. For, e.g., an atmospheric pressure; collisional broadening, in turn, is
electric dipole transition at the center of the vis- usually larger than the natural broadening.
ible (λ ≈ 500 nm), one has ∆νnat  16 MHz. Since
Part C 11.1

τs ≈ 1/ν3 , the natural line width rapidly increases for Nonradiative Decay
transitions at shorter wavelengths (to the UV or X-ray Besides decaying via radiative emission, an atom in an
spectral regions). excited state may decay toward a lower-lying level in
We finally note that, when the two aforementioned a nonradiative way. A first mechanism of nonradiative
homogeneous line broadening mechanisms act simul- decay arises from collisions and is called collisional de-
taneously, the overall line shape is obtained from the activation. In this case, for a liquid or a gas, the transition
convolution of the two corresponding Lorentzian func- energy is released as excitation and/or kinetic energy
tions. One then obtains a Lorentzian function with of the colliding species, or it is transferred to the con-
a FWHM given by ∆ν0 = ∆νcoll + ∆νnat . tainer walls; for an ion in a crystal or in a glass the
deactivation occurs through the interaction with lattice
Inhomogeneous broadening. A line broadening mech- phonons or glass vibrational modes. When, e.g., the ex-
anism is said to be inhomogeneous when it distributes citation energy of an atomic excited species B ∗ in a gas
the atomic resonance frequencies over some spectral is released as a kinetic energy of the species A, the col-
range. A first case of inhomogeneous broadening is that lisional deactivation process occurs via the superelastic
of ions in ionic crystals or glasses, where the local crys- collision B ∗ + A → B + A + ∆E, where ∆E, the exci-
tal field induces, via the Stark effect, a local variation of tation energy to be released, is left as kinetic energy of
the energy-level separation of the ion. For random lo- the colliding partners. When the electronic energy of
cal field variations, the corresponding distribution of the species B ∗ is released in the form of the internal energy
transition frequencies g∗ (ν − ν0 ) turns out to be given by of species A, we have instead B ∗ + A → B + A∗ + ∆E,
a Gaussian function (11.17) with a line width ∆ν0∗ that where now ∆E is the difference between the internal
depends on the amount of field inhomogeneity within energies of the two colliding species. In this latter case,
the crystal or glass. deactivation process is efficient provided that ∆E is
A second inhomogeneous mechanism, typical of appreciably smaller than the thermal energy kB T of col-
gases, arises from atomic motion and is referred to as liding species. A simple description of the nonradiative
Doppler broadening. In fact, due to the motion of the decay of a given species in an excited state is expressed
atom, the frequency ν of the EM wave as seen in the by a nonradiative lifetime τnr such that N2 /τnr is the
rest frame of the atom is shifted as compared to the fre- number of atoms, per unit volume and time, that decay
quency ν of the wave in the laboratory reference frame owing to the deactivation process.
according to the relation ν = ν[1 − (vz /c)], where vz Nonradiative decay acts in combination with spon-
is the component of the atomic velocity in the propa- taneous emission and, according to (11.3), the overall
gation z-direction of the EM wave. From the point of lifetime τ of an excited state is given by: τ = (1/τnr +
view of atom–radiation interaction, this shift is equiva- 1/τs )−1 .
lent to a change of the resonance frequency of the atom
rather than to a change of the EM frequency. Taking into Concluding Remarks
account the Maxwellian distribution of molecular ve- From the preceding discussions, we can say that the most
locities in a gas, one can show that the distribution of important material parameters of interest for a laser are
the transition frequencies g∗ (ν − ν0 ) is given again by the transition wavelength λ, the transition cross sec-
a Gaussian function (11.17) with a line width ∆ν0∗ given tion at the peak σp , the lifetime of the upper laser level
by τ, and the line width ∆ν0 of the transition line shape.
  These parameters, for the most common gas, liquid and
2kB T ln 2 1/2
∆ν0∗ = 2ν0 , (11.25) solid-state lasers, are summarized in Table 11.1. We
Mc2 note that, as compared to gas and liquid lasers, the cross
where M is the atomic (or molecular) mass and T the gas sections for solid-state lasers (Nd:YAG, Nd:glass, and
temperature. As an example, for the λ = 632.8 nm line of Ti3+ :Al2 O3 ) are relatively small and, correspondingly,
Lasers and Coherent Light Sources 11.1 Principles of Lasers 595

Table 11.1 Main parameters for transitions in most common gas, liquid and solid-state lasers
Transition λ (nm) σp (cm2 ) τ (µs) ∆ν0
HeNe 632.8 5.8 × 10−13 30 × 10−3 1.7 GHz
Ar+ 514.5 2.5 × 10−13 6 × 10−3 3.5 GHz
Nd:YAG 1064 2.8 × 10−19 230 120 GHz
Nd:glass 1054 4 × 10−20 300 5.4 THz
3.2 × 10−16 5.5 × 10−3

Part C 11.1
Rhodamine 6 G 570 46 THz
Ti3+ :Al2 O3 790 4 × 10−19 3.9 100 THz

the lifetimes relatively long because in these lasers the under the gainline of the HeNe laser is N ≈ 1.2 × 109 .
transitions are electric-dipole forbidden (or weakly al- In the open optical resonant cavities only those modes
lowed). We note also that the line widths of gas lasers traveling nearly parallel to the resonator axis experience
are much smaller than those of solid-state or dye lasers. low losses to allow for laser oscillation. Therefore, the
oscillating modes are expected to show a field distri-
11.1.3 Laser Resonators and Modes bution mostly confined around the optical axis of the
resonator and propagating paraxially along it, making
As discussed in the introductory section, in a laser os- the output laser beam highly directional. These cavity
cillator the inverted amplifying medium is placed inside modes and corresponding resonance frequencies depend
a laser resonator or laser cavity, which can be viewed upon three integer numbers n, m and l, which are re-
as a trapping box for light radiation capable of sustain- ferred to as mode indices. The latter two indices m and l
ing stationary (i. e., monochromatic) or weakly damped (transverse mode indices) determine the transverse field
electromagnetic field configurations at some selected distribution (i. e., in a plane orthogonal to the paraxial
optical frequencies [11.3, 5]. Such EM field configu- resonator axis) of the mode, whereas the former index
rations and the corresponding optical frequencies are n (the longitudinal mode index) determines the longitu-
called cavity modes and resonance frequencies, respec- dinal field distribution (i. e., along the resonator axis) of
tively. The most widely used resonators for lasers are the mode and gives, in particular, the number of longitu-
open cavities, composed of at least by two plane or spher- dinal nodes of the standing wave. For spherical mirrors
ical mirrors of circular shape (spherical resonators), with sufficiently wide apertures, transverse modes are
placed in front each other at some distance L. Ex- expressed by Gauss–Hermite or Gauss–Laguerre func-
cept for microlasers, in ordinary lasers the resonator tions, depending on rectangular or circular boundary
length L is typically much larger than the oscillat- conditions. In particular, the leading-order mode, cor-
ing wavelength λ, ranging from a few centimeters to responding to transverse mode indices m = l = 0, is
a few tens of centimeters, whereas mirror dimensions a Gaussian beam and represents the most common trans-
range from a fraction of centimeter to a few centime- verse field distribution of any output laser beam. For this
ters. The optical cavity is open to reduce drastically the reason the study of laser modes is closely related to the
number of modes that can oscillate with low loss. In propagation properties of Gaussian (or Gauss–Hermite)
fact, if the cavity were closed, the number N of res- beams.
onant modes that might oscillate, i. e., the number of
modes whose resonance frequency falls within the gain- Gaussian Beams
line of the active medium, is approximately given by The electric field of a monochromatic (and uniformly
N ≈ (8πν2 /c3 )V ∆ν0 , where (8πν2 /c3 ) is the density of polarized) light wave propagating at a small angle (i. e.,
modes, ∆ν0 the line width of the gain medium, and V paraxially) along the z-direction of an xyz cartesian
is the cavity volume. Note that V is usually several or- system of coordinates can be described as follows:
ders of magnitude larger than λ3 at optical wavelengths.
To estimate N, let us consider an active medium with E(x, y, z, t) = E 0 u(x, y, z) ei(ωt−kz) + c.c. , (11.26)
a narrow line width, such as the λ = 633 nm transition
of the HeNe laser (∆ν0∗ = 1.7 GHz). Assume a res- where ω = 2πν, ν is the optical frequency, k = 2π/λ is
onator length L = 50 cm closed by a lateral cylinder the wavenumber, λ is the optical wavelength, u(x, y, z)
with diameter 2a = 3 mm. The cavity volume is then is the complex field envelope obeying the so-called
V = πa2 L, and the number of cavity modes that fall paraxial wave equation, which in case of free-space
596 Part C Coherent and Incoherent Light Sources

propagation reads R
R(z) = z 1 + , (11.30)
∂2u ∂2u ∂u  
+ 2 − 2ik =0. (11.27) z
∂x 2 ∂y ∂z ϕ(z) = tan−1 , (11.31)
Among the solutions of (11.27) that retain their
where z R = πw20 /λ is a parameter referred to as the
functional form during propagation, the fundamental
Rayleigh range. Note that u(x, y, z) is given by the prod-
Gaussian beam solution turns out to be particularly
Part C 11.1

uct of three terms: an amplitude factor with a transverse

suited to describe laser beams both inside and outside
Gaussian distribution, (w0 /w) exp[−(x 2 + y2 )/w2 ] (see
the resonator [11.12]. A Gaussian beam is a solution of
Fig. 11.7a); a transverse phase factor, exp[−ik(x 2 +
the paraxial equation (11.27) of the form:
y2 )/(2R)]; and a longitudinal phase factor exp(iϕ). The
w0 x + y2 amplitude factor in (11.28) shows that, while propagat-
u(x, y, z) = exp − 2 ing, the beam intensity distribution retains its shape, but
w(z) w (z)
  its transverse size w, which is called the beam spot size,
x 2 + y2 changes along the propagation direction z according to
× exp −ik
2R(z) (11.29). Note that w(z) is a symmetric function of z with
× exp[iϕ(z)]. (11.28) a minimum spot size w = w0 at the plane z = 0, which
is hence referred to as√the beam waist (Fig. 11.7b). For
In the preceeding equation, w(z), R(z) and ϕ(z) are given z = z R , one has w = 2w0 so that the Rayleigh range
by z R represents the distance from the beam waist√ at which
 the beam spot size increases by a factor 2. At large
z distances (i. e., for z z R ), w increases linearly with z,
w(z) = w0 1 + , (11.29)
zR according to w ≈ (w0 /z R )z. Hence we can define a beam
divergence due to diffraction as θd = limz→∞ w(z)/z,
a) E (r) b) w/w0 λ
E0 θd = . (11.32)
The transverse phase factor in (11.28) has the same form
E0 /e 2 as that for a spherical wave in the paraxial approxima-
tion, R playing the role of the radius of curvature of the
spherical wavefront. Thus, we can say that a Gaussian
w r 0 1 2 3 z/zR beam has an approximately spherical wavefront with
c) R/zR a radius of curvature varying along propagation accord-
ing to (11.30). Note that R(z) is an odd function of z
(Fig. 11.7c), showing a minimum Rmin = 2z R at z = z R ;
4 for z z R , R increases linearly with z, whereas one has
R → ∞ as z = 0. Thus the wavefront is flat at z = 0 and,
2 at large distances, its radius increases linearly with z just
as for a spherical wave. The longitudinal phase factor ϕ
–3 –2 –1
provides, in addition to the usual phase shift −kz of
1 2 3 z/zR
plane waves, a longitudinal phase shift (sometimes re-
2 ferred to as the Gouy phase shift), slowly varying with z
from −(π/2) to (π/2) on going from z  z R to z z R .
4 An important parameter of a Gaussian beam at
a given propagation plane z is the so-called complex-q
parameter, defined by the relation:
1 1 λ
Fig. 11.7a–c The fundamental Gaussian beam in free-space prop- = −i . (11.33)
agation: (a) the Gaussian transverse amplitude profile, being q R πw2
r = (x 2 + y2 )1/2 ; (b) the beam spot size w(z); (c) the wavefront It can be shown that, for a Gaussian beam propagating in
radius of curvature R(z) free space, the q parameter changes along propagation
Lasers and Coherent Light Sources 11.1 Principles of Lasers 597

according to

q(z) = z + iz R . (11.34)


Equations (11.29) and (11.30) can indeed be obtained
upon inserting the parameter q from (11.33) into (11.34)
and then separating the real and imaginary part of the

Part C 11.1
resulting equation.
The fundamental Gaussian beam described above
belongs to a more general set of eigensolutions of (11.27)
which can be written as the product of an Hermite poly- TEM30 TEM50 TEM11
nomial with a Gaussian function. These are known as
Hermite–Gaussian beams, and assume the following
form [11.3, 5]
√  √ 
w0 2x 2y
u l,m (x, y, z) = Hl Hm
w(z) w(z) w(z) TEM21 TEM22 TEM23
x + y2 Fig. 11.8 Grey scale intensity patterns of a few low-order
× exp − 2
w (z) Hermite–Gaussian modes

x 2 + y2
× exp −ik z = z 2 , into the distribution
2R(z)  1+l+m
× exp[i(1 + l + m)ϕ(z)] , (11.35) u(x, y, z 2 ) =
A + (B/q1 )
√  √ 
where w(z), R(z) and ϕ(z) are given by (11.29, 30, 31), 2x 2y
respectively, and Hl , Hm are Hermite polynomials of or- × Hl Hm
w2 w2
der l and m. The lowest-order Hermite–Gaussian beam
is obtained by setting l = m = 0 in (11.35). These solu- × exp[−ik(x 2 + y2 )/(2q2 )] , (11.36)
tions are often referred to as TEMlm beams, where TEM where the values q1 and q2 of the complex-q parameter at
stands for transverse electric magnetic: within the parax- the input (z = z 1 ) and output (z = z 2 ) planes are related
ial approximation, both electric and magnetic fields of by the so-called ABC D law
the EM wave are, in fact, approximately transverse to the
Aq1 + B
z-direction. Note that, for a TEMlm beam, the number of q2 = . (11.37)
zeros of the field along the x- and y-directions is given Cq1 + D
by the subscripts l and m, respectively, and therefore As a particular case, note that for free-space propagation
the intensity distribution of the TEMlm beam consists of from z 1 = 0 to z 2 = z one has A = 1, B = z, C = 0, and
l + 1 lobes in the horizontal direction and m + 1 lobes in D = 1, so that the ABC D law (11.37) yields (11.34).
the vertical direction (Fig. 11.8).
As a final remark, it should be noted that Gauss– Optical Resonators: Introductory Concepts
Hermite beams maintain their functional shape as The simplest optical resonator is the plane-parallel or
they propagate along an arbitrary paraxial optical Fabry–Pérot resonator, consisting of two plane metallic
system, described by a paraxial ray matrix ABC D. or dielectric mirrors set parallel to one another [11.13].
Beam propagation, in this case, is simply ruled by At first approximation, the modes of this resonator can be
an algebraic relation for the complex q parameter of considered as the superposition of two plane EM waves
the Gaussian beam, which is known as the ABC D propagating in opposite directions along the cavity axis
law. In fact, if z = z 1 and z = z 2 are the input and (Fig. 11.9a). In this approximation, resonance frequen-
output planes of the ABC D paraxial optical sys- cies can be readily obtained by imposing the condition
tem,√a Gauss–Hermite
√ field distribution u(x, y, z 1 ) = that the cavity length L must be an integer multiple of
Hl ( 2x/w1 )Hm ( 2y/w1 ) exp[−ik(x 2 + y2 )/(2q1 )] at half-wavelengths, i. e., L = n(λ/2), where n is a posi-
the input plane z = z 1 is transformed, at the output plane tive integer. This is a necessary condition for the electric
598 Part C Coherent and Incoherent Light Sources

field of the EM standing wave to be zero on the two, e.g. some arbitrary distance L (Fig. 11.9b). These resonators
metallic, mirrors. It follows that the resonant frequencies can be divided into two categories: stable resonators
are given by and unstable resonators. A resonator is said to be un-
stable when, in bouncing back and forth between the
νn = n . (11.38) two mirrors, an arbitrary paraxial ray diverges indefi-
nitely away from the resonator axis, either radially or
Note that (11.38) can also be obtained by imposing the
angularly. Conversely, a resonator whose paraxial rays
condition that the phase shift of a plane wave due to
Part C 11.1

remain bounded is said to be stable. An example of an

one round-trip through the cavity must equal an inte-
unstable resonator is shown in Fig. 11.9c. Among stable
gral number times 2π, i. e., 2kL = 2nπ. This condition
spherical resonators, symmetric resonators (i. e., hav-
is readily obtained by a self-consistency argument: if the
ing R1 = R2 ) are of particular importance; the confocal
frequency of the plane wave is equal to that of a cav-
resonator, in which the two spherical mirrors have the fo-
ity mode, the phase shift after one round-trip must be
cus in common (R1 = R2 = L), is a noteworthy example
zero (apart from an integer multiple of 2π). Only in this
of a spherical symmetric resonator. Another important
case, in fact, do the amplitudes at any arbitrary point,
scheme for laser cavities is that employing a ring res-
due to successive reflections, add up in phase to give
onator, where the path of the optical rays is arranged
an appreciable total field. According to (11.38) the fre-
to form a closed loop (Fig. 11.9d). Also in this case the
quency difference between two consecutive modes, i. e.,
resonant frequencies can be obtained by imposing the
differing by 1 in the longitudinal mode index n, is given
condition that the total phase shift along the ring path
must equal an integer number of 2π. The expression
c for the resonance frequencies of longitudinal (or axial)
∆ν = . (11.39)
2L modes is thus given by
This difference is referred to as the frequency difference  
between two consecutive longitudinal (or axial) modes. νn = n (11.40)
Note that, since the number n indicates the number of Lp
half-wavelengths of the mode along the resonator axis, where L p is the length of the closed loop path. In
the two consecutive modes have a different longitudinal general, a standing-wave pattern may be formed in
pattern. ring resonators, because the beam can propagate either
A more general class of laser resonators is the one clockwise or counterclockwise along the loop. Anyway,
made of spherical resonators, which are formed by two unidirectional ring resonators can be realized by means
spherical mirrors of radius of curvatures R1 and R2 , of optical diodes inserted along the beam path.
either concave (R > 0) or convex (R < 0), placed at
Stability Condition
In general, a laser cavity can be viewed as made of two
a) b) spherical mirrors comprising a set of intermediate op-
tical elements like lenses, mirrors, prisms, and so on
(Fig. 11.10a). If we define an arbitrary plane β orthog-
C2 C1 onal to the cavity optical axis, it is intuitive (and can
be rigorously demonstrated) that the round-trip propa-

c) d) a) b)
â â â

Cavity r0 r1
elements C D

L 2L

Fig. 11.9 (a) Plane-parallel resonator; (b) Spherical two- Fig. 11.10 (a) A general laser cavity, and (b) its equivalent
mirror resonator; (c) An unstable resonator; (d) A unidirec- representation given by resonator unfolding with respect to
tional ring resonator an arbitrary β plane
Lasers and Coherent Light Sources 11.1 Principles of Lasers 599

gation along the cavity is equivalent to the propagation

in a suitable optical system S having β as input and
output planes, a transformation known as the unfolding g 1g 2 = 1
of the resonator. Paraxial propagation in such a sys-
tem can be described by means of the ABC D cavity b
round-trip matrix (Fig. 11.10b). Accordingly, if we let C
r0 and r0 be, respectively, the transverse coordinate and

Part C 11.1
angle that a ray make with the optical axis when in-
B g1
tercepting plane β at time t = 0, and rn and rn be the
coordinate of the same ray after n cavity round-trip, we A

rn A B r0 n r0 g 1g 2 = 1
= =M . (11.41)
rn C D r0 r0
Therefore, the optical resonator is stable if and only
if, for any initial set of coordinates (r0 , r0 ), the cor- Fig. 11.11 Stability diagram for a general two-mirror spher-
responding coordinates (rn , rn ) do not diverge as n ical resonator. Stable resonators correspond to (g1 , g2 )
increases. This condition is met provided that the eigen- points lying in the gray region of the plane
values λ1,2 of M are, in modulus, not larger than
one. Since λ1,2 = exp(±iθ), where cos(θ) = (A + D)/2, The stability condition given by (11.44) can be con-
the stability condition requires that θ be real, i. e., veniently displayed in the (g1 , g2 )-plane as reported
that in Fig. 11.11. Stable resonators correspond to those

A+ D points in the gray region of the plane, excluding those

2 1. (11.42) which lie on the boundaries, (i. e., satisfying the con-
ditions g1 g2 = 0 or g1 g2 = 1), which are referred to
For the particular case of two-mirror resonators, we as marginally stable resonators. Note that symmetric
can go one step further by explicitly calculating the cor- resonators (i. e., having mirrors of the same radius of
responding ABC D matrix. We recall that a given overall curvature R1 = R2 = R) lie on the bisector line b. As
matrix can be obtained by the product of matrices of in- particular examples of these symmetric resonators, one
dividual optical elements traversed by the beam, with can see that those corresponding to point A, B and C of
the matrices written in the reverse order compared to the figure are the concentric (L = 2R), confocal (L = R)
ray propagation through the corresponding elements. In and plane (R = ∞) resonators, respectively. Since points
our case, the ABC D matrix is then given by the or- A, B and C lie on the boundary of the stability region,
dered product of the following matrices: reflection from the corresponding resonators are only marginally stable.
mirror 1, free-space propagation from mirror 1 to 2,
reflection from mirror 2, free-space propagation from Laser Modes
mirror 2 to 1: The modes of an optical resonator are defined as the sta-

tionary (i. e., monochromatic) or weakly damped field
A B 1 0 1 L 1 0 1 L
= . distributions that can be sustained inside the cavity and
C D −2/R1 1 0 1 −2/R2 1 0 1
that satisfy the boundary conditions imposed by the cav-
ity mirrors. We note that, in open resonators, diffraction
After performing matrix multiplication we obtain losses due to the finite aperture of the mirrors make the
A+ D L L modes always leaky. The electric field for a mode in
= 1− 1− −1 . (11.43)
a leaky resonator can then be generally represented as
2 R1 R2
It is customary to define dimensionless quantities, re- E(x, y, z, t) = a(x, y, z) cos(ωt)

ferred to as the g1 and g2 parameters, defined as −t
g1 = 1 − L/R1 and g2 = 1 − L/R2 . In terms of these × exp (t > 0) , (11.45)
parameters, the stability condition transforms into the
where a(x, y, z) is the mode field distribution, ω is the
very simple relation:
resonance frequency, and τc describes field decay due
0 < g1 g2 < 1 . (11.44) to cavity losses and is referred to as the cavity pho-
600 Part C Coherent and Incoherent Light Sources

ton lifetime. In order to determine the resonator modes, when a point-like source at the (x1 , y1 ) point is
the corresponding resonance frequencies and diffraction placed at the z = 0 input plane. Indeed, if Ẽ(x1 , y1 , 0)
losses let us consider the rather general class of res- were a bidimensional Dirac δ-function centered at
onators with an optical axis z, as shown in Fig. 11.10a. x1 = x1 and y1 = y1 , i. e., if Ẽ(x1 , y1 , 0) = δ(x1 −
Propagation of an EM wave back and forth between x1 , y1 − y1 ), then from (11.46) one would readily get
the two end mirrors of the cavity is equivalent to the Ẽ(x, y, 2L) = K (x, y; x1 , y1 ) exp(−2ikL). For a gen-
unidirectional propagation of an EM wave in a peri- eral optical system, the calculation of the kernel K
Part C 11.1

odic sequence of optical elements (e.g., a lens guide) is usually rather complicated. However, within the as-
which is obtained by unfolding the resonator, as shown sumption of infinite aperture of all optical elements, the
in Fig. 11.10b. Note that, in the unfolding scheme, the kernel K is simply expressed in terms of the round-
end spherical mirrors should be replaced by thin spheri- trip resonator-matrix elements ABC D by the relation
cal lenses with focal length equal to the mirror radius of (Huygens–Fresnel–Kirchhoff kernel)
Let us first consider the propagation of a monochro- K (x, y; x1 , y1 )

matic EM field in a periodic lens guide. By i ik
= exp −
writing the electric field along the lens guide as λB 2B
E(x, y, z, t) = Ẽ(x, y, z) eiωt + c.c., due to the linear-  
ity of the Huygens–Fresnel integral the complex field × A(x12 + y12 ) + D(x 2 + y2 ) − (2xx1 + 2yy1 )
amplitude Ẽ after one period of the lens guide can gen- (11.47)
erally be written by an integral transformation, namely
(Fig. 11.12) and the integral in (11.46) can be extended from −∞
to ∞.
Ẽ(x, y, 2L) Let us now define a mode of a periodic lens
= exp(−i2kL) guide as a field distribution which reproduces itself

after one guide period except for an overall ampli-
× K (x, y; x1 , y1 ) Ẽ(x1 , y1 , 0) dx1 dy1 , (11.46) tude reduction, due to lens-guide losses, and a phase
1 shift ∆ϕ accounting for field propagation. Hence
where K (x, y; x1 , y1 ) is a function of the transverse co- Ẽ(x, y, 2L) = |σ̃| exp(i∆ϕ) Ẽ(x, y, 0), where |σ̃| < 1.
ordinates of both input and output planes, known as It is now convenient to write the phase shift as
the propagation kernel. Note the phase term (−2kL), ∆ϕ = −2kL + ϕ, where −2kL is the shift of a plane
which represents the phase shift if the wave were wave and ϕ is an additional phase term due to the fact
a plane wave. The kernel K accounts for all the that the lens-guide mode is not a plane wave. Hence, for
elements encountered during propagation from in- a lens-guide mode we require the condition
put plane 1 (z = 0) to output plane 2 (z = 2L) and Ẽ(x, y, 2L) = σ̃ exp(−2ikL) Ẽ(x, y, 0) , (11.48)
represents, from a physical viewpoint, the field dis-
tribution observed at the (x, y)-plane (i. e., at z = 2L) where σ̃ = |σ̃| exp(iϕ). Substitution of (11.48) into
(11.46) yields

K (x, y; x1 , y1 ) Ẽ(x1 , y1 , 0) dx1 dy1
1 E (x1, y1, 0) 2
y1 y = σ̃ Ẽ(x, y, 0) . (11.49)

x1 x Note that the mode distribution Ẽ(x, y, 0) is an eigen-

0 2L z function of a Fredholm homogeneous integral equation
Optical of the second kind corresponding to the eigenvalue σ̃. As
system a rather general property, it turns out that the Fredholm
S ® K (x1, y1; x, y) ~ integral equation admits a doubly infinite discrete set of
E (x, y, 2L)
confined eigensolutions, which can be distinguished by
a pair of integer positive numbers l and m. Accordingly,
Fig. 11.12 Field calculation at plane 2 (z = 2L) when the field the corresponding eigenvalues will generally be indi-
Ẽ(x1 , y1 , 0) at plane 1 (z = 0) is known cated as σ̃lm = |σ̃lm | exp(iϕlm ), with |σ̃lm | < 1 owing to
Lasers and Coherent Light Sources 11.1 Principles of Lasers 601

the overall losses (namely, diffraction losses, scattering loss mechanisms are always present in a laser resonator.
losses from optical elements, and so on) encountered in For instance, the mirror reflectivity of the output coupler
one period of propagation along the lens guide. is always smaller than 100%, which means that a frac-
Now, let us return to the problem of cavity mode tional part of the photons φ stored in the cavity escapes
calculation. In this case, the mode Ẽ of the lens guide from the resonator at each round-trip. Scattering or ab-
corresponds to a mode of the resonator of Fig. 11.10a sorption losses of intracavity optical elements are also
provided that, after one cavity round-trip, the overall another common cause of photon leakage. To calculate

Part C 11.1
phase shift ∆ϕ accumulated in one cavity round-trip the rate of energy decay in a given cavity mode, let I0 be
is zero apart from an integer number of 2π, i. e., the initial intensity corresponding to the field amplitude
∆ϕ = −2kL + ϕlm = −2πn. From this condition and at a fixed point within the cavity, and let R1 and R2 be
using the relation k = 2πν/c between the wavenumber the (power) reflectivities of the two mirrors and L i the
k and frequency ν of the mode, one readily obtains the fractional internal loss per pass, which accounts for scat-
cavity resonance frequencies as tering, absorption and diffraction losses. The intensity
c ϕlm
at the same point, after a round-trip time τR = 2L e /c,
νnlm = n+ . (11.50) is I(τR ) = R1 R2 (1 − L i )2 I0 = I0 exp(−2γ ), where L e is
2L 2π
the cavity optical length and γ is the logarithmic loss
Note that we have indicated explicitly that these frequen- per pass, defined by the relation
cies depend on the three integer numbers l, m, and n. The
integers l and m define the transverse field profiles of the γ1 + γ2
γ= + γi (11.52)
mode (Fig. 11.8), i. e., they represent the number of zeros 2
of the field along the x- and y-coordinates, respectively. with γ1 = −ln(R1 ), γ2 = −ln(R2 ), and γi = −ln(1 −
The integer n defines the longitudinal field configura- L i ). In view of the exponential decay law introduced
tion, i. e., the number of zeros of the EM standing wave in (11.45), after a round-trip time we must have
(nodes) as previously discussed for the plane-parallel I(τR ) = I0 exp(−τR /τc ), and thus we conclude that the
resonator (11.38). photon lifetime is given by
For stable resonators with infinite apertures the
eigenmodes of the Fredholm equation are given by τR Le
τc = = . (11.53)
the Gauss–Hermite functions, and their resonance fre- 2γ cγ
quencies can be calculated from (11.50) using the Having calculated the photon lifetime, the time
propagation law (11.36). For instance, for the impor- behavior of the electric field at any point inside the res-
tant case of two-mirror spherical resonators, it turns out onator can be written as E(t) = E 0 exp(−t/2τc + iωt) +

that ϕlm = 2(1 + l + m) cos−1 (± g1 g2 ), where the plus c.c., where ω is the angular frequency of the mode. The
or minus sign depends on whether g2 (and hence g1 ) is same time behavior then applies for the field of the wave
positive or negative. The resonance frequencies of the leaving the resonator through the output mirror. Taking
two-mirror spherical resonator are thus given by: the Fourier transform of this field (for t > 0) we find that

c 1+l +m −1 √ the power spectrum of the emitted light has a Lorentzian
νnlm = n+ cos (± g1 g2 ) . line shape with line width (FWHM) given by
2L π
(11.51) 1
∆νc = . (11.54)
For, e.g., a confocal resonator, one has g1 = g2 = 0, 2πτc
and hence νnlm = [c/(4L)](2n + 1 + l + m). Note that We can now introduce an important quality factor which
modes with the same value of (2n +l + m) have the same is strictly related to the photon lifetime. This is the cavity
resonance frequency, and they are said to be frequency Q-factor which is defined, for any resonant system, as
degenerate. Note also that, for a confocal resonator, the 2π times the ratio between the energy stored in the res-
mode spacing is c/(4L). onator and the energy lost in one oscillation cycle. Thus
a high cavity Q-factor implies low losses in the resonant
Photon Lifetime and Cavity Q system. Since in our case the energy stored is φhν and
The modes of an optical resonator are always leaky and the energy lost per cycle is (− dφ/ dt)h we obtain
therefore show a finite photon cavity lifetime τc . In fact,
besides diffraction losses due to finite aperture effects 2πνφ ν
Q=− = , (11.55)
of mirrors or intracavity optical elements, some other dφ/ dt ∆νc
602 Part C Coherent and Incoherent Light Sources

where the exponential decay law φ(t) = φ0 exp(−t/τc ) of photons φ of the oscillating mode stored in the cavity:
for the stored cavity photons φ has been used and where dN N
the expression for ∆νc given by (11.54) has also been = Rp − BφN − (11.56)
utilized. dt τ
dφ φ
As an example, consider a two-mirror spherical res- = − + Va BφN , (11.57)
onator with R1 = R2 = R = 0.98 and assume L i  0. dt τc
From (11.53) we obtain τc = τT /[−ln(R)] = 49.5 τT , where Rp is the pump rate per unit volume, τ is the
Part C 11.1

where τT = L/c is the transit time of the photon for lifetime of the upper laser level 2, and τc is the photon
a single pass in the cavity. Note that the photon life- lifetime for the oscillating mode. In (11.56), the terms
time is much longer than the transit time, a typical Rp , N/τ and BφN = W21 N account for the pumping
result of low-loss cavities. If we now assume L = 90 cm, process, radiative and nonradiative decay, and stimulated
we get τT = 3 ns and τc  150 ns. From (11.54) we emission, respectively. The constant B, which represents
can then calculate ∆νc  1.1 MHz. Finally, assuming the stimulated transition rate per photon, per mode is re-
a laser wavelength λ  630 nm corresponding to an op- lated to the transition cross section σ by the simple
tical frequency ν = 5 × 1014 Hz, from (11.55) we have equation B = σc/V , where V is the mode volume in
Q = 4.7 × 108 . Thus laser resonators have a remark- the laser cavity [11.3]. The first term on the right-hand
ably high Q-value, which means that a very small side in (11.57), φ/τc , represents the number of cavity
fraction of the energy is lost during one oscillation photons that are lost per unit time due to internal loss,
cycle. diffraction loss and output coupling through the mirrors.
Finally, the second term in (11.57) represents the number
11.1.4 Laser Rate Equations of photons (per unit time) that are created in the oscil-
and Continuous-Wave Operation lating mode owing to stimulated emission: since BφN
represents the number of atoms per unit volume and per
A simple and powerful approach for understanding the unit time that decay creating a photon in the oscillat-
basic dynamical behavior of a laser is based on a rate- ing cavity mode, the total number of photons created
equation model, in which simple balance equations for per unit time can be expressed as the product of BφN
the total number of atoms undergoing a transition and with the volume Va occupied by the cavity mode inside
the total number of photons created or annihilated are the gain medium. Spontaneous emission in not included
written [11.3]. For a more-refined treatment of laser dy- in the balance equation (11.57) since only a negligi-
namics based on either a semiclassical or a full-quantum ble fraction of spontaneously emitted photons belongs
electrodynamic approach, which may account for certain to the oscillating mode. However, spontaneous emission
phenomena such as dynamical laser instabilities, laser photons are important to allow laser action starting.
coherence and photon statistics, we refer the reader to The laser output power Pout is related to the photon
more-specialized literature [11.6, 8]. number φ by the simple relation
γ2 φ γ2 c
Laser Rate Equations Pout = (hν) = hνφ . (11.58)
Let us consider a four-level laser scheme (Fig. 11.4b) 2γ τc 2L e
and make the following assumptions: In fact, (hν)(φ/τc ) is the total EM energy lost in the
cavity per unit time, and solely a fraction γ2 /(2γ ) of
1. the laser transition is homogeneously broadened, this power is available due to transmission through
2. the lifetime τ1 of the lower laser level 1 is short the output mirror. For a typical CW laser operated in
enough that we may neglect the population in level 1, the continuous-wave regime, the number of photons φ
3. a single longitudinal and transverse mode is oscil- stored in the cavity may vary from about 1010 photons
lating in the cavity, for low-power lasers (such as a HeNe laser delivering
4. we neglect the precise transverse and longitudinal Pout = 10 mW power at λ = 632.8 nm) to 1017 photons
spatial variation of the cavity mode, for high-power lasers (such as a CO2 laser delivering an
5. we assume uniform pumping of the active medium. output power Pout = 10 kW at λ = 10.6 µm).

Under these assumptions, we can write the fol- Threshold Condition

lowing rate equations for the population inversion The population inversion needed to reach the threshold
N = N2 − N1  N2 in the active medium and the number for laser oscillation is simply obtained from (11.57) by
Lasers and Coherent Light Sources 11.1 Principles of Lasers 603

imposing dφ/ dt = 0. An initially small number of pho-

N, ö
tons turns out to be exponentially damped for N < Nc
or exponentially amplified for N > Nc , where:
Nc N
1 γ
Nc ≡ = (11.59)
τc BVa σl ö
is referred to as the critical inversion (or threshold

Part C 11.1
inversion). In this equation, l is the length of the ac-
tive medium and the threshold condition σ Ncl = γ
is reached when the gain in the inverted medium, 0
g = σ Nl, equals the logarithmic loss γ of the cavity. Rcp Rp
Laser below Laser above
The pump rate corresponding to the threshold condi- threshold threshold
tion is Rcp = Nc /τ = γ /(σlτ); the corresponding pump
power at threshold Pth is then obtained using (11.9). The Fig. 11.13 Behavior of population inversion N and photon
perturbation that starts the laser action when the pump number φ in the oscillating mode versus the pump rate Rp
rate Rp reaches the critical value Rcp is provided by for a four-level laser. Rcp is the critical pump rate above
spontaneous emission. which laser action takes place

Output Power and Slope Efficiency bation of the system (e.g., of cavity losses) is damped.
For a pump rate Rp > Rcp , the rate equations (11.56, 57) When the ratio τ/τc between the upper laser level life-
admit the solution N0 = Nc and φ0 = [1/(Bτ)](x − time and cavity photon lifetime is larger than 1 (or much
1), corresponding to laser being above threshold larger, such as in laser transitions which are electric-
(Fig. 11.13). Here x = Rp /Rcp = Pp /Pth > 1 is the dipole forbidden), relaxation to the steady state occurs
above-threshold pump behavior parameter, where Pp is through damped oscillations in both photon number and
the pump power and Pth is its threshold value. The cor- population inversion. This results in damped oscillations
responding output laser power can be then calculated of the output power referred to as relaxation oscilla-
from (11.58) and can be cast in the form tions. In solid-state lasers, the frequency of relaxation
Pout = ηs (Pp − Pth ) , (11.60) oscillations typically fall in the 10 kHz–10 MHz region,
whereas, in semiconductor lasers, it falls in the GHz re-
where gion. Relaxation oscillations in slow-gain media (such
as in solid-state lasers) triggered by technical noise or
ηs = ηp ηc ηq ηt . (11.61)
by pump power fluctuations are one of the major cause
Equation (11.60) shows that, within the approximation of amplitude noise in the output laser power. Whenever
made, a linear relation is obtained between the output a high degree of intensity stability is required, laser am-
power and the pump power. One can then define the slope plitude stabilization may be provided by a suitable active
efficiency of the laser as ηs = dPout / dPp . According to feedback loop.
(11.61), ηs is given by the product of four contributions:
Laser Tuning
1. the pump efficiency ηp
The gain line width of some lasers (e.g., dye lasers or
2. the output coupling efficiency ηc = γ2 /(2γ )
vibronic solid-state lasers) is very wide and, for sev-
3. the laser quantum efficiency ηq = (hν)/(hνmp )
eral applications, one needs to tune the laser output
4. the transverse efficiency ηt = Ab /A
wavelength away from the line center and across the
where Ab = Va /l is the transverse mode area in the active entire available line width. In other cases, different las-
medium and A the transverse pumping area. The slope ing transitions may compete or may potentially be used,
efficiency of a laser may typically vary from less than and one needs to select one of them. In both circum-
1% in low-efficiency lasers (such as in the HeNe laser) stances, one can employ a wavelength-selective element
to 20–50% or even higher in high-efficiency lasers. inside the laser cavity, which is often referred to as
laser tuner. For lasers in the middle infrared (such as
Relaxation Oscillations CO2 lasers), one generally uses a diffraction grating
One can show that the solution, given above, for lasers in the so-called Littrow configuration (Fig. 11.14a) as
above threshold is stable, i. e., that any initial pertur- one of the cavity mirror. Wavelength tuning is simply
604 Part C Coherent and Incoherent Light Sources

birefringent plate does not change the polarization state

a) of the beam and thus allows for laser oscillation with
Gain medium ë2 low loss. Upon rotation of the plate around the axis or-
thogonal to its faces (Fig. 11.15) the direction of the
birefringence axes of the plates is changed and this cor-
ë1 respondingly changes the wavelength at which low loss
Part C 11.1

Mirror Grating Single Mode Selection

b) and Limit to Laser Monochromaticity
Most often, lasers tend spontaneously to oscillate on sev-
Gain medium eral transverse and longitudinal modes, especially when
the gainline is relatively broad. The reasons for mul-
timode oscillations are rather involved and their study
goes beyond the scope of the present contribution. For
ë1 many applications, single-mode operation may be re-
Mirror Mirror
quired, and therefore one needs to force the laser to
oscillate on a single transverse (usually the fundamen-
Fig. 11.14 (a) Laser tuner based on a diffraction grating in tal TEM00 Gaussian mode) and longitudinal mode. For
the Littrow configuration. (b) Laser tuner based on the use stable resonators, single transverse mode oscillation is
of a dispersive prism easily achieved by placing an aperture inside the cav-
ity of appropriate size in order to increase diffraction
achieved by grating rotation. In the visible or near- loss of higher-order modes with respect to the TEM00
infrared spectral regions (such as for the Ar3+ laser), mode. In some cases, such as in longitudinally pumped
a dispersive prism is more commonly used and wave- solid-state lasers, limitation on the pump spot size lends
length tuning is simply achieved by prism, or mirror, itself to TEM00 mode selection.
rotation (Fig. 11.14b). To reduce insertion losses, the Even when a laser is oscillating on a single trans-
two prisms facets are approximately inclined at Brew- verse mode, it can still oscillate on several longitudinal
ster angle. A third wavelength-selective element, which modes. This usually occurs since the longitudinal-mode
is becoming increasingly popular in the visible or near- separation ∆ν = c/(2L) is smaller (or much smaller)
infrared, uses a birefringent filter inside the cavity. than the gain line width ∆ν0 . For some gas lasers,
This device exploits a birefringent plate, inclined at where the gain line width is relatively small (up to a few
the Brewster angle, which generally changes the po- GHz), single-longitudinal-mode selection is simply ob-
larization state of the intracavity laser beam. In the tained by making the cavity length short enough that the
presence of an intracavity polarizer, or just exploiting longitudinal-mode separation ∆ν becomes larger than
the polarizing properties of the Brewster-angle filter, the ∆ν0 /2. For, e.g., a HeNe laser (∆ν0∗  1.7 GHz), this
birefringence filter thus generally produces additional condition implies L ≤ 17.5 cm. For solid-state lasers
cavity losses. However, at certain wavelengths, λ, the with a bandwidth up to a few hundred GHz, this condi-
tion requires cavity lengths in the sub-millimeter region
(microchip lasers). For lasers with much larger band-
Rotation widths (e.g., dye lasers or tunable solid-state lasers),
for tuning
Birefringent the required length is too small to make the tech-
Brewster plate Resonator nique of practical relevance and to make the gain in
angle axis the medium large enough to reach threshold. In these
cases, different techniques are employed. For solid-
state or dye lasers, the simplest method is to use one
(or more) Fabry–Pérot etalons within the cavity, which
acts as a narrow frequency spectral-selective element
(Fig. 11.16). The etalon thickness and finesse should be
Fig. 11.15 Schematic of a birefringent laser tuner made of designed to ensure single mode selection. This implies
an intracavity birefringent plate and polarizer that:
Lasers and Coherent Light Sources 11.1 Principles of Lasers 605

1. the half width ∆νFP /2 of the transmission peaks

Gain line
of the Fabry–Pérot must be smaller than the ÄíFSR
longitudinal-mode separation ∆ν = c/(2L); Fabry Perot
2. the etalon free spectral range ∆νFSR must be peaks
larger than the half width of the gain line ∆ν0 /2
(Fig. 11.16). ÄíFP

For semiconductor lasers, single mode selection is

Part C 11.1
achieved by using a distributed feedback (DFB) struc- c í
ture, in which a longitudinal corrugation of the 2L
refractive index in the semiconductor induces fre-
Fig. 11.16 Schematic of single longitudinal mode selection by use
quency mode selection according to Bragg scattering
of an intracavity Fabry–Pérot etalon
A special case of single mode selection that deserves
∆L by just ≈ 10−8 times the atomic dimension leads to
mention is that of a laser with a homogeneously broad-
a contribution to ∆νL comparable to the quantum limit.
ened line (e.g., Nd:YAG and dye lasers). In this case,
Conversely, in semiconductor lasers the quantum limit
multimode oscillation is mainly due to the standing-
of ∆νL is considerably larger and typically falls in the
wave character of the laser mode arising from the
MHz range, owing to the much short photon lifetime (τc
interference of counter-propagating waves established
is of the order of few ps). Therefore, the laser line width
between the two cavity mirrors. The use of a ring
of a typical semiconductor laser arises from quantum
resonator instead of a linear cavity, in which unidirec-
tional operation is forced by, e.g., an intracavity optical
diode, may be enough in this case to achieve single
11.1.5 Pulsed Laser Behavior
longitudinal-mode operation.
We finally discuss the limit of monochromaticity
In lasers operating in the CW or quasi-CW regimes, the
(and hence of temporal coherence) of a laser. The line
maximum achievable optical output power is limited by
width ∆νL of a laser that oscillates on a single longi-
the maximum available pump power. For high-power
tudinal mode is ultimately established by spontaneous
CW lasers (such as CO2 lasers), power levels up to
emission noise. The quantum theory of a laser shows
≈ 100 kW can be reached; however larger power lev-
that the spectral shape of emitted light is Lorentzian with
els, which can be of interest for many applications, are
a FWHM given by the well-known Schawlow–Townes
prevented in the CW regime. Transient laser behavior al-
lows one to obtain higher peak powers by concentrating
N2 2πhνL (∆νC )2 the available energy in a single, short optical pulse or in
∆νL = , (11.62)
N2 − N1 P a periodic sequence of optical pulses [11.3,5]. Addition-
where P is the output power, ∆νC = 1/(2πτc ) is the line ally, transient laser behavior is a powerful tool for the
width of the cold cavity mode, N2 and N1 are the steady- generation of ultrashort optical pulses, with durations
state populations in the upper and lower laser levels, down to ≈ 10 fs in lasers with a broad gainline (notably
respectively, and νL is the emission frequency. Typi- the Ti3+ :Al2 O3 laser). From a dynamical viewpoint,
cally the line width predicted by the Schawlow–Townes pulsed laser behavior can be divided into two rather
formula is negligibly small compared to that produced distinct categories:
by other cavity disturbances (e.g., fluctuations of cavity
length or technical noise), except for the very important 1. Laser transients occurring on a time scale of the or-
class of semiconductor lasers. For, e.g., a typical HeNe der of the cavity photon lifetime τc , i. e., appreciably
laser oscillating on its red transition (λ = 632.8 nm), τc larger than the cavity round-trip time. This in-
is of the order of tens of µs, so that ∆νL is of the or- cludes the so-called Q-switching and gain-switching
der of  1 mHz, which turns out to be much smaller regimes, which enable the generation of optical
than the line broadening due to technical noise. For in- pulses as short as a few nanoseconds with optical
stance, a small cavity length change ∆L, due to technical peak powers typically in the megawatt range. These
noise, contributes to the frequency broadening ∆νL by are basically single-longitudinal-mode regimes and
an amount given by |∆νL | = (∆L/L)νL ; for L = 1 m can be described by means of a rate equation model
and νL = 4.7 × 1014 Hz (visible transition), a change of (11.56, 57).
606 Part C Coherent and Incoherent Light Sources

2. Laser transients occurring on a time scale appre- to pumping. When the shutter is opened, the Q factor
ciably shorter (and often much shorter) that the is suddenly switched to a high value and the laser ex-
cavity round-trip time. These are basically multi- hibits a gain g = σlN that greatly exceeds the loss γ .
longitudinal-mode regimes, i. e., they involve the Light emission then occurs via the generation of a short
simultaneous oscillation of many longitudinal laser and intense laser pulse. The duration of a Q-switching
modes, and include the so-called mode-locking pulse typically ranges from a few nanoseconds to a few
regime, which enables the generation of trains of tens of nanoseconds, whereas its peak power is in the
Part C 11.1

ultrashort laser pulses with durations down to a few megawatt range. To achieve sufficient population inver-
femtoseconds. sion when laser action is prevented, a long lifetime τ of
the upper laser level is required. Thus Q-switching can
Laser Q-switching: Dynamical Aspects be effectively used for electric-dipole-forbidden laser
Q-switching is a technique that enables the generation transitions, where τ generally falls in the millisecond
of a short optical pulse (of the order of the cavity photon range. This is the case of most solid-state lasers (e.g.,
lifetime τc ) by a sudden switching of the cavity Q factor, Nd, Yb, Er in different host materials; Cr-doped mater-
i. e., of the cavity loss γ . The change of Q is produced, in ials, such as alexandrite, Cr:LiSAF, and ruby) and some
principle, upon placing inside the laser cavity an opaque gas lasers (e.g., CO2 or iodine).
shutter which can be opened or closed. When the shut- To understand the basic dynamics of Q-switching,
ter is closed (i. e., the cavity Q is low), laser action is let us consider a four-level laser and assume that a step
prevented and the population inversion N can reach a rel- pump pulse is applied at time t = 0, i. e., Rp (t) = 0 for
atively large value (well above the critical value Nc ) due t < 0 and Rp = constant for 0 < t < tp , where tp is the
duration of the pump pulse; meanwhile the shutter is
closed (Fig. 11.17a) and laser action is prevented. From
a) (11.56) with φ = 0, one then obtains that the transient
Rp N population inversion increases accordingly to the rela-
Rp (t)
tion N(t) = N∞ [1 − exp(−t/τ)], where the asymptotic
N¥ value N∞ is given by N∞ = Rp τ (Fig. 11.17a). After
a pump time of about 2τ, the population inversion al-
ready reaches a value close to its asymptotic limit N∞ ,
N (t)
and therefore the pump pulse can be switched off and
the shutter opened. In fact, for tp larger than ≈ 2τ the
energy supplied to the medium is not useful for increas-
ô tp t
ing the population inversion any further but is lost as
b) radiative and nonradiative decay. Suppose now that the
N, ö Ni shutter is opened very rapidly at time tp (fast switching),
N (t) and take the origin of time at the instant when switching
occurs (Fig. 11.17b). From this time on, the evolution
of both population inversion and number of photons in
the cavity can be numerically computed by solving the
rate equations (11.56) and (11.57) with the initial con-
ö (t) ditions φ(0)  1 and N(0) = Rp τ[1 − exp(−tp /τ)] ≡ Ni ,
where the initial condition φ(0)  1 accounts for the fact
Nf that the laser action is started by spontaneous emission
(the so-called extra photon). The qualitative transient
ôdelay t behavior of both N and φ is shown in Fig. 11.17b and
can be simply understood by observing that, just after
Fig. 11.17a,b Dynamics of fast switching in a four-level the switching time t = 0, the gain g = σ Nl in the gain
laser. (a) Temporal behavior of pump rate and population medium greatly exceeds the single-pass cavity loss γ ;
inversion when the cavity Q is low. (b) Temporal behavior therefore the number of photons, which increases nearly
of population inversion and cavity photons when the cav- exponentially with time starting from the extra photon
ity Q is suddenly switched to a high value, showing the due to spontaneous emission, typically takes from sev-
formation of the Q-switching pulse eral hundreds to a few thousand cavity round-trips to
Lasers and Coherent Light Sources 11.1 Principles of Lasers 607

reach a sufficient value to saturate the laser transition,

thus producing a reduction of the available inversion
(Fig. 11.17b). This means that the time delay for the
peak of the laser pulse, τdelay typically ranges from sev- 0.8
eral tens to a few hundred of nanoseconds. Note that,
on such a time scale, the radiative and nonradiative 0.6
decays of the population N (which typically occur on

Part C 11.1
the millisecond time scale) are negligible, and therefore
population decay just occurs by stimulated emission. 0.2
The decrease of N as φ increases leads, in turn, to a de-
crease of the gain g = σ Nl. The peak of the pulse occurs 0
1 1.5 2 2.5 3 3.5 4
at the delay time, τdelay , such that the population inver- Ni/Nc
sion N decreases to its critical value, Nc . In this case, in
fact, laser gain g equals cavity loss γ and one has from Fig. 11.18 Behavior of the energy utilization factor ηE ver-
(11.57) dφ/ dt = 0. For t > τdelay , one has N < Nc and sus the normalized initial inversion Ni /Nc
dφ/ dt < 0. This means that the number of photons now
decreases towards zero. Meanwhile, due to stimulated of this energy, only the fraction [γ2 /(2γ )] goes into the
emission, the population inversion also keeps decreas- output beam.
ing until the photon pulse has decreased to zero. At Q-switched lasers may generally be operated in two
this time some population inversion, say Nf , is gener- distinct regimes. In so-called pulsed Q-switching, the
ally left in the medium after Q-switching (Fig. 11.17b). pump rate Rp (t) generally consists, as explained above,
Note that the quantity ηE = (Ni − Nf )/Ni represents the of a pulse with duration comparable to the upper-state
fraction of the energy initially stored in the material that lifetime τ. Of course, the pulsed operation can be pe-
goes into stimulated emitted photons, usually referred riodically repeated upon repeating the pulsed pump
to as the inversion, or energy, utilization factor. The du- (generally up to a rate of a few tens of Hz). In so-
ration ∆τp of  the Q-switched pulse, the output energy called CW repetitive Q-switching, the pump rate Rp is
E = (1/τc )[ φ(t) dt](hν)(γ2 /(2γ )), the energy utiliza- held constant and cavity losses are periodically switched
tion factor ηE , as well as the time τdelay needed for pulse from a high to a low value (generally with a rate from
formation can be derived in a closed form by an analysis a few to a few tens of kHz).
of the rate equations (11.56) and (11.57) in which pump- So far we have considered the dynamic behavior
ing and radiative and nonradiative decay are neglected. corresponding to fast switching, where the switching
One obtains: of the cavity loss is treated as instantaneous (in prac-
tice, much shorter than the time τdelay ). In the case of
(Ni /Nc )ηE slow switching, the dynamic behavior is somewhat more
∆τp = τc , (11.63)
(Ni /Nc ) − ln(Ni /Nc ) − 1 complicated and multiple pulses may result, as shown
E= (Ni ηE Va )(hν) , (11.64)
2γ g, ã, ö
τdelay ≈ ln(φp /10) , (11.65)
(Ni /Nc ) − 1 ã (t)

where Ni /Nc is the ratio between the initially stored

population inversion and critical inversion; φp is the
peak photon number of the Q-switching pulse, given by
φp = Va (Ni − Nc ) − Nc Va ln(Ni /Nc ); and ηE is the en- g (t)
ergy utilization factor. The value of ηE can be calculated ö (t)
from the implicit equation (Ni /Nc )ηE = −ln(1 − ηE )
from which a plot of (Ni /Nc ) vs. ηE can readily be
obtained (Fig. 11.18). Note that (11.64) can readily be
obtained by a simple energy-balance argument: the
stored energy in the medium released as EM wave is Fig. 11.19 Gain and photon dynamics in a slow-switching
in fact equal to hν(Ni − Nf )Va = hν(ηE Ni )Va , and, out laser, showing the formation of multiple pulses
608 Part C Coherent and Incoherent Light Sources

in Fig. 11.19. In the figure, the behavior of the cavity crystal required to produce the phase shift ∆ϕ = π/2
loss γ and laser gain g = σ Nl is depicted. The multiple is referred to as the quarter-wave voltage and typically
intersections of the slowly decaying curve for the loss ranges from 1 to 5 kV. To avoid multiple pulses, this
γ (t) with the gain curve g(t) explain the formation of voltage must be switched off in a time typically smaller
multiple Q-switching pulses. than 20 ns.

Methods of Q-Switching Rotating prism. In this simple Q-switching technique,

Part C 11.1

Several methods have been developed to achieve switch- one of the cavity mirror is generally made of a roof-
ing of the cavity Q; the most common are [11.3, 4]: top prism and rotation is made through the axis parallel
to the other mirror and orthogonal to the prism edge
1. Electrooptic Q-switching;
(Fig. 11.21). The high-Q condition is achieved when
2. Rotating prism;
the prism edge passes through a position parallel to the
3. Acoustooptical Q-switching;
other cavity mirror. Although rotating prisms are simple
4. Saturable absorber Q-switching.
and inexpensive devices which can be used at any wave-
length, they suffer the limitation arising from the limited
Electrooptic Q-switching. In this case the shutter placed rotation speed (≈ 400 Hz). The Q-switching time is then
inside the laser cavity is made of a Pockels cell and rather long (typically ≈ 400 ns) which often results in
a polarizer in the configuration shown in Fig. 11.20 the production of multiple pulses (slow switching).
(electrooptic shutter). The Pockels cell consists of a suit-
able nonlinear electrooptic crystal (such as KD*P or Acoustooptic Q-switching. In this case the shutter
lithium niobate for the visible-to-near-infrared region or consists of an acoustooptic modulator, driven by a radio-
cadmium telluride for middle-infrared), in which an ap- frequency (RF) oscillator, which is placed inside the
plied dc voltage induces a change in the crystal refractive laser cavity. The modulator consists of a transparent
indices. The induced birefringence turns out to be pro- block of material (usually fused quartz in the visi-
portional to the applied voltage. The transmission axis ble to near-infrared or cadmium selenide in the mid-
of the polarizer is set at 45o with respect to the birefrin- to far-infrared) bonded on one side to a piezoelectric
gence axes of the crystal. When no dc field is applied transducer and to an acoustic absorber on the other
to the crystal, no polarization losses are introduced in (Fig. 11.22). When the transducer is on, traveling sound
the cavity by the electrooptic shutter, i. e., cavity losses waves are then produced in the material in the direc-
are low. However, when a dc field is applied such that tion orthogonal to the plane of the transducer. Due to the
the phase difference ∆ϕ between the ordinary and ex- photoelastic effect, the resulting strain in the material
traordinary waves in the birefringent-induced crystal is results in local changes of the material refractive index,
equal to π/2, the Pockels cell operates as a λ/4 bire- i. e., in the generation of an index grating which is travel-
fringent plate. Therefore, the linearly polarized light, ing along the material itself. Bragg scattering of the laser
coming from the polarizer, is rotated by 90◦ after a dou-
ble pass through the cell and it is then fully reflected out
of the cavity by the polarizer. The electrooptic shutter is Rotating
now closed and cavity Q is zero. The dc voltage to the

E Voltage
Polarizer Gain medium
Gain optic
medium Rotation
crystal axis Mirror

Mirror Mirror

Fig. 11.20 Schematic of a Q-switched laser using a Pockels Fig. 11.21 Schematic of a Q-switched laser using a rotating
cell prism
Lasers and Coherent Light Sources 11.1 Principles of Lasers 609

obtain N1 − N2  Nt /(1 + I/Is ), where Nt = N1 + N2 is

the total absorber population and Is ≡ hν/(2στ) is the
Abso saturation intensity of the absorber. Since now the ab-
stic Diffracted sorption coefficient is α = σa (N1 − N2 ), from the last
Acou e two equations we obtain
wav beam
Laser α= , (11.66)
2èB 1 + I/Is

Part C 11.1
where α0 = Nt σa is the unsaturated absorption coef-
ficient of the absorber. Equation (11.66) then shows
that, as the intracavity laser intensity I increases, the
losses introduced by the saturable absorber decrease
and the cavity Q correspondingly increases, i. e., Q-
RF voltage transducer
switching is achieved. The detailed dynamics underlying
the formation of a Q-switching pulse with the saturable-
Fig. 11.22 Schematic of an acoustooptic modulator used for absorber Q-switch, is however more involved than the
laser Q-switching (θB is the Bragg angle) one previously discussed. Here we just say that the
saturable absorber should have a low value of the sat-
beam propagating across such a grating (Fig. 11.22) thus uration intensity so that, when laser action starts, the
produces a diffracted beam and hence additional losses absorber is bleached earlier (i. e., at lower intensity)
in the cavity (low-Q condition). Maximum diffraction than the time when population inversion in the gain
efficiency is achieved when the incident light angle θB medium starts to decrease appreciably owing to stim-
satisfies the Bragg condition θB = λ/(2λa ), where λ ulated emission.
and λa are the optical and acoustical wavelengths, re- Typical absorbers used for passive Q-switching con-
spectively. The high-Q condition is simply obtained sist of dyes in an appropriate solvent; the main drawback
by switching off the transducer voltage. Acoustoop- of these absorbers is their photochemical degradation,
tic modulators have the advantages of introducing low i. e., poor chemical stability, and inadequate thermal
values of optical insertion losses and can be driven properties. Recently, the advent of solid-state absorbers
at high repetition rates (several kHz). Therefore they (notably absorbers based on chromium doped into vari-
are used mainly for repetitive Q-switching of low-gain ous crystalline hosts) are replacing dye absorbers, thus
CW-pumped lasers (e.g., Nd:YAG or Ar-ion lasers). avoiding the problem of degradation.

Saturable absorber Q-switching. The Q-switching Laser Mode-Locking: Dynamical Aspects

techniques discussed so far use active Q-switches, in Mode-locking is a laser operation regime in which many
the sense that they need an external control source. longitudinal modes of the cavity are simultaneously
A notable passive Q-switching technique, in which no forced to oscillate with a precise phase relation so that
external driving control is required, consists of placing the output laser beam shows a repetitive train of ultra-
a suitable saturable absorber inside the laser cav- short optical pulses [11.3, 5]. To achieve mode-locking
ity. This absorber is basically an unpumped two-level operation, a suitable device, which is usually referred
medium which absorbs at the laser wavelength with to as the mode locker, must be placed inside the cavity.
a comparatively low saturation intensity. Thus, due to For a given laser medium, the lower limit to the achiev-
the phenomenon of saturation, the absorption coeffi- able pulse duration ∆τp is set by the gain line width
cient of the absorber decreases as the intensity of the (∆τp  1/∆ν0 ), whereas the pulse repetition rate 1/τp
intracavity laser beam increases. To model this phe- is usually equal to the difference frequency between two
nomenon we write the rate equation for the absorber as consecutive longitudinal modes ∆ν (or an integer mul-
( dN2 / dt) = σa (N1 − N2 )I/(hν) − N2 /τ, where N2 and tiple of ∆ν, as for harmonic mode-locking). Therefore,
τ are the population and lifetime of the excited level 2, pulse duration, depending upon the gain line width, usu-
N1 is the population in the lower (ground) level 1, and ally ranges from about 1 ns, in gas lasers, down to 10 fs in
I = I(t) is the intracavity laser intensity. In CW opera- broad-bandwidth solid-state lasers. Pulse repetition rate
tion or if τ is short enough as compared to the changes depends, of course, upon the cavity length and usually
of I(t), we may assume that ( dN2 / dt) ≈ 0 and therefore ranges from about 100 MHz to a few GHz.
610 Part C Coherent and Incoherent Light Sources

Frequency-domain description. The basic principle of In a free-running laser, the phases ϕl do not have
laser mode-locking can be explained as follows. Let us a precise relation to each other; they may also fluctuate in
consider, for simplicity, a traveling-wave ring laser of time. The superposition of N modes with, e.g., the same
optical length L e , and assume that the separation of the amplitude Al = A0 but with randomly distributed phases
longitudinal cavity modes ∆ν = c/L e be smaller (usu- typically leads to a spiking signal |A(t)|2 made of a pe-
ally much smaller) than the gain line width ∆ν0 . In riodic sequence of irregular pulses (Fig. 11.24a), each
this case, even in the absence of the mode locker, the with duration approximately equal to ∆τp ≈ 1/∆νL ,
Part C 11.1

laser tends spontaneously to oscillate on several longi- where ∆νL = N∆ν is the oscillating bandwidth. Note
tudinal modes (free-running regime). Let νl = ν0 + l∆ν that, since the response time of a conventional photode-
be the frequency and El = Al exp(iϕl ) the complex am- tector is usually much longer than a few picoseconds,
plitude of the l-th oscillating longitudinal cavity mode, the complex temporal behavior shown in Fig. 11.24a is
where l is an integer number and l = 0 corresponds to the usually not resolved for free-running multimode lasers,
longitudinal mode closest to the center of the gainline instead its average value – proportional to N A20 – is
(Fig. 11.23). The electric field E(z, t) inside the laser monitored.
cavity is then given by the superposition of the oscillat- In a mode-locked laser, the role of the mode locker
ing longitudinal modes and can be written in the form is to lock the phases of oscillating modes in a precise
E(z, t) = A(t − z/c) exp[2πiν0 (t − z/c)], where z is the manner. The most common and interesting case is that
longitudinal coordinate measured along the perimetric of a mode locker that imposes a linear phase locking
axis of the ring and the envelope A(t ) is given by condition, i. e., ϕl = lϕ, where ϕ is a constant. In this
 case, one has:
A(t ) = Al exp(2πil∆νt + iϕl ) , (11.67) ∞

l A(t ) = Al exp(2πil∆νt ) , (11.68)
where t = t − z/c is a retarded time. Note that, owing to
the dependence of the field on t − z/c, the field distribu-
tion in the cavity is a traveling wave which propagates a) |E (t)|2
with the speed of light; therefore we may limit the dis- TR
cussion to the field behavior at a given reference plane
z = 0, e.g., at the output coupler of the laser. The output
laser power, averaged over the rapidly varying optical Äôp
cycle, will be then proportional to |A(t)|2 . Note that, if
the mode amplitudes Al and phases ϕl are constant or
slowly varying in time compared to the cavity round-trip
time τR = L e /c = 1/∆ν, the signal A(t) is basically pe- 0 0.5 1 1.5 2
riodic in time with a period equal to τR . However, the t /TR
specific form of the signal in one period depends on the b) |E (t")|2
precise distribution of the mode amplitudes Al and, most
ôp = TR ôp = TR
importantly, on their phases ϕl .

Gain line

–3 –2 –1 l = 0 1 2 3 0 0.5 1 1.5 2

Äí Fig. 11.24a,b Behavior of output power in a laser oscil-

ÄíL lating on many longitudinal modes with equal amplitude
(a) Free-running regime, corresponding to random phases
Fig. 11.23 Schematic of a laser oscillating on several longi- φl . (b) Mode-locking regime, corresponding to linear phase
tudinal modes in the frequency domain locking φl = lφ
Lasers and Coherent Light Sources 11.1 Principles of Lasers 611

where t is a translated time given by t = t + Time-domain description. The previous analysis of

ϕ/(2π∆ν). Usually, in a mode-locked laser the en- mode-locking is often referred to as the frequency-
velope of the mode amplitudes Al follows the shape domain description since the onset of the periodic pulse
of the gainline, i. e., Al is maximum at the center of train is viewed as due to the coherent superposition of
the gainline (l = 0) and decreases toward zero as |l| longitudinal modes of the laser cavity. A different de-
increases; for instance, for active mode-locking in a ho- scription of the mode-locking regime, complementary
mogeneously broadened medium, one can show that to the frequency-domain approach, is also possible in

Part C 11.1
Al follows a Gaussian distribution. However, to cal- the time domain. In fact, according to the results shown
culate the series in (11.68) simply, we assume that in Fig. 11.24b and since τR is the time for a round-trip,
Al = A0 = const. for |l| ≤ N and Al = 0 for |l| > N, a single pulse of duration ∆τp is circulating within the
i. e., we assume an odd number 2N + 1 of oscillating laser cavity (Fig. 11.25a). Note that the spatial extension
modes with the same amplitude. In this case one ob- of the pulse ∆z = c∆τp , according to (11.70) is given
tains in (11.68) a geometric progression which can be by ∆z = L e /(2N + 1) where L e is the length of the ring
calculated in a closed form, yielding perimeter. For a sufficiently large number (2N + 1) of os-
  cillating modes, ∆z is then much smaller than the cavity
sin (2N + 1)π∆νt
A(t ) = A0 . (11.69) length L e . The temporal periodicity of the output laser
sin(π∆νt ) beam then simply results from the successive transits
A plot of the squared amplitude of the electric field of the intracavity circulating pulse at the output mirror,
|A(t )|2 is reported in Fig. 11.24b. Note that a pulse which occur at intervals τp = L e /c equal to the cavity
train, at a repetition rate τp = 1/∆ν equal to the cavity transit time. According to this picture, we readily under-
round-trip time τR , is obtained. The squared ampli-
tude of the electric field at the peak pulse is given by a) Gain
(2N + 1)2 A20 , whereas the FWHM pulse duration ∆τp medium Output
is approximately given by beam
1 1 c
∆τp  = , (11.70)
(2N + 1)∆ν ∆νL
where ∆νL = (2N + 1)∆ν is again the oscillating band- Mode
width. Therefore, for broad oscillating bandwidths, locker
phase locking among longitudinal modes leads to the
generation of short laser pulses with high peak power.
The physical limit to the maximum number of phase-
b) Gain Mode
locked modes that can be forced to oscillate is ultimately Pulse
medium locker
determined by the gain bandwidth of the active material, c
i. e., ∆τp is longer than or equal to 1/∆ν0 . beam
In general, when the actual shape (e.g., Gaus-
sian) of the mode amplitudes Al is taken into
account, the overall field amplitude A(t ) can be
Gain medium
obtained approximately from (11.68) upon trans-
forming the sum  +∞over all modes into an integral, c) Mode
namely A(t )  −∞ A(l) exp(2πil∆νt ) dl. From this locker
last equation one then sees that the pulse amplitude c c c
A(t ) is the Fourier transform of the spectral mode beam
envelope A(l). Therefore, in this case, i. e., under lin-
ear phase-locking conditions, the pulse amplitude is
2L/3 L/3
said to be transform limited. Note, however, that un-
Gain medium
der phase-locking conditions different from the linear
case (e.g., ϕl = ϕ1 l + ϕ2l 2 , as in so-called frequency Fig. 11.25a–c Schematic of the mode-locking regime in the
mode-locking) the mode-locked pulses are no longer time domain. (a) Mode-locking in a ring cavity. (b) Mode-
transform-limited, i. e., their temporal duration is larger locking in a linear cavity. (c) Harmonic mode-locking in
than that predicted by the Fourier limit. a linear cavity (harmonic order n = 3)
612 Part C Coherent and Incoherent Light Sources

stand that the mode-locking regime can be achieved by modulation (AM) mode locking], or a phase modulator,
placing a suitable fast shutter inside the cavity. In fact, which periodically varies the optical length of the res-
if an initially non-mode-locked beam is present within onator [frequency-modulation (FM) mode locking]. In
the cavity, its spatial amplitude distribution can be rep- lasers with upper-state lifetimes shorter than the cavity
resented as in Fig. 11.24a, with the time t replaced by round-trip time (e.g., dye lasers), active mode lock-
z/c. By periodically opening the shutter for a short time ing can also be achieved by periodic modulation of
interval (of the order ∆τp ) with period τp = L e /c, pos- the laser gain at a repetition rate equal to the longi-
Part C 11.1

sibly at the time when the most intense noisy pulse in tudinal mode separation ∆ν (synchronous pumping).
Fig. 11.24a reaches the shutter, then only this pulse will We limit here to describe the basic principle of AM
survive in the laser cavity, producing the mode-locking mode locking, since it is the most common among
condition of Fig. 11.24b. After a transient leading from the three mentioned techniques. In AM mode locking,
the temporal pattern of Fig. 11.24a to that of Fig. 11.24b, the mode locker is usually a Pockels-cell electroop-
the mode-locked pulse will consistently reproduce itself tic modulator for pulsed and high-gain lasers, or an
after each transit in the cavity. acoustooptic modulator for low-gain lasers. The elec-
It should be noted that all considerations made above trooptic or acoustooptic modulator sinusoidally varies
for a ring laser resonator apply mutatis mutandis to a lin- the cavity loss γ (t) at a given modulation frequency
ear (i. e., Fabry–Pérot) laser cavity. In this case, however, νm (Fig. 11.26). It is thus expected that the mode-
self-consistent propagation of the mode-locked pulse in locked pulse circulating inside the cavity (Fig. 11.25b)
one cavity round-trip requires that the shutter must be will pass through the modulator at the time t1 of the
placed close to one end mirror of the cavity (Fig. 11.25b). cycle where the cavity loss γ (t) is minimum. Since
Note that, if the shutter is placed at a distance L/2, L/3, the pulse propagating inside the cavity passes again
· · · , L/n from one end mirror and is opened at inter- through the modulator at times t2 = t1 + τR , t3 = t2 + τR ,
vals τR /2, τR /3, · · · , τR /n, where L is the cavity length, etc., where τR = 1/∆ν is the cavity round-trip time,
multiple pulses (precisely 2, 3, · · · , n pulses) may be a steady mode-locking regime can be reached provided
simultaneously generated and the repetition rate of the that the synchronization condition ∆ν = νm is satisfied.
pulse train is correspondingly increased by a factor of It should be noted that the steady-state pulse dura-
2, 3, · · · , n (see, e.g., Fig. 11.25c for the case n = 3). tion, ∆τp , is given by the inverse of the oscillation
Such a mode-locking regime is referred to as harmonic bandwidth, (2N + 1)∆ν, and, thus, it is ultimately es-
mode-locking. Harmonic mode-locking is typically em- tablished by the gain bandwidth ∆ν0 . However, the
ployed in active mode-locked fiber lasers to increase the finite bandwidth of the gain medium influences the
pulse repetition rate (≈ 1–40 GHz); owing to the rel- steady-state pulse duration in a quite different way
atively long cavity length (≈ 1–10 m), to reach high for homogeneous or inhomogeneous lines. For an in-
repetition rates harmonic orders n up to ≈ 1000 are homogeneously broadened line, and for a laser well
usually needed. above threshold, the oscillating bandwidth tends to
cover the whole gain bandwidth ∆ν0∗ even in the ab-
Mode-Locking Methods sence of AM modulation, and the main role of the
The methods to achieve mode-locking can generally be mode-locker is just to lock the phases of these os-
divided into two categories: cillating modes. The resulting temporal duration of
the mode-locked pulse is therefore given approxi-
1. Active mode locking, in which the mode-locker is
driven by an external source.
ã TR = 1/ím
2. Passive mode locking, in which the mode-locker is
not externally driven but exploits some nonlinear ã (t)
optical effect, such as the saturation of a saturable
absorber or the nonlinear change of the refractive
index in a Kerr medium.
|E (t)|2
Active mode locking. Active mode locking is usu-
ally achieved by placing, inside the laser cavity, either t1 t2 t3 t
an amplitude modulator, which produces a periodic
modulation in time of the cavity loss [amplitude- Fig. 11.26 Schematic of AM active mode locking
Lasers and Coherent Light Sources 11.1 Principles of Lasers 613

mately by
ã, g
∆τp  . (11.71) ã (t)
Conversely, for a homogeneously broadened gain
medium the number of longitudinal modes oscillating g
in the free-running regime is usually rather modest and I (t)

Part C 11.1
the role of the mode-locker is both to enlarge the oscil-
lating bandwidth of the laser (by power transfer from t
the central to lateral longitudinal modes) and to lock Fig. 11.27 Mode-locking with a fast saturable absorber
the phases of the oscillating modes. Under steady-state
conditions, band enlargement due to the modulator is loss experienced by a pulse crossing the absorber is
counteracted by band reduction due to the gain medium dependent on the instantaneous pulse intensity I(t),
and the pulse duration is given by [11.14] and decreases as the intensity increases. Thus, start-
0.45 ing from the random sequence of light bursts occurring
∆τp  √ . (11.72)
νm ∆ν0 in the unlocked case (Fig. 11.24a), the gain–loss bal-
As an example, we will consider a mode-locked Nd:YAG ance will favor the growth and stabilization of the noise
laser oscillating on its homogeneously broadened line at pulse with the highest intensity. The steady-state sit-
λ = 1064 nm. Assuming ∆ν0  126 GHz (T = 300 K), uation, occurring in this case, can be described with
a linear cavity of length L e = 1.5 m and an AM mode- the help of Fig. 11.27. Here, gain saturation drives the
locker placed close to one cavity mirror, the modulator gain g below the cavity losses γ (t) except at those in-
loss must be driven at a frequency νm = ∆ν = c/(2L e )  stants where, due to the arrival of the pulse I(t) at
100 MHz, and the expected mode-locked pulse duration, the saturable absorber, the losses are reduced due to
according to (11.72), is ∆τp  125 ps. absorber saturation. During the time intervals corre-
It should be noted that in AM mode-locked lasers sponding to the hatched regions in Fig. 11.27, the gain
(as well as in the other active mode locking techniques) is then larger than the instantaneous loss γ (t). A so-
even small detunings of the modulation frequency νm called window of net gain is thus produced, which
from the cavity axial mode separation ∆ν may result in tends to increase the peak of the pulse and decrease
the destruction of the mode-locking operation. In prac- its wings, i. e., it tends to narrow the pulse. This nar-
tice a detuning |νm − ∆ν|/νm of the order of ≈ 10−4 rowing is again counteracted by pulse broadening due
is enough to destroy mode-locking. To obtain stable to the finite amplifier bandwidth until a steady-state
AM mode-locking, active control of the cavity length pulse duration, whose duration again depends on the in-
is sometimes required, especially when relatively long verse of the gain bandwidth, is eventually reached. Good
cavities are employed (such as for AM mode-locked candidates for saturable absorbers must have a short re-
fiber lasers). laxation time τ (∼ a few picoseconds or shorter) and
a small saturation intensity, given by Is = hν/(2σa τ).
Passive mode-locking. There are two main types of Thus, very large values for the absorption cross section
passive mode-locking (ML): σa (≈ 10−16 cm2 or larger) are needed. Ideal absorbers
are therefore dye molecules (e.g., cyanine dyes) or,
1. Fast saturable-absorber ML, which uses the satura- even better, semiconductors. A particularly interest-
tion properties of a suitable absorber (e.g., a dye ing saturable-absorber geometry consists of integrating
or a semiconductor) with a very short upper-state a multiple-quantum-well absorber between two mirrors
lifetime; whose spacing is such that the resulting Fabry–Pérot
2. Kerr-lens mode-locking (KLM), which exploits the etalon operates in antiresonance. Such a device has
self-focusing property of a suitable transparent Kerr been convincingly proven to generate both picosecond
medium. and femtosecond laser pulses from several broadband
solid-state lasers.
Fast saturable-absorber ML [11.15]. Consider a sat-
urable absorber with a low saturation intensity and Kerr-lens mode-locking. This technique is based on
a relaxation time shorter than the duration of the mode- the use of a nonlinear loss element simply consist-
locked pulses. According to (11.66), the absorption ing of a nonlinear Kerr medium placed in front of
614 Part C Coherent and Incoherent Light Sources

an aperture (Fig. 11.28). The nonlinear medium shows,

via the optical Kerr effect, an intensity-dependent re- r Kerr Aperture
medium Low
fractive index n = n 0 + n 2 I, where n 0 is the linear intensity
refractive index of the medium, I is the local light
intensity and n 2 is a positive coefficient (for a self- w
focusing medium) which depends on the strength
of the nonlinearity (e.g., n 2  4.5 × 10−16 cm2 /W z
Part C 11.2

for fused quartz and n 2  3.45 × 10−16 cm2 /W for

sapphire). A light beam with, e.g., a transverse
Gaussian intensity distribution I(r) = Ip exp[−2(r/w)2 ] High
that crosses a thin slice of the Kerr medium of l
length l thus experiences a transversely varying phase
shift δϕ = 2πln 2 I(r)/λ = (2πln 2 /λ)Ip exp[−2(r/w)2 ]. Fig. 11.28 Schematic of a Kerr lens with an aperture used
Close to the beam center r = 0, one can write in KLM
δϕ ≈ (2πln 2 Ip /λ)[1 − 2(r/w)2 ], i. e., the thin medium
introduces a quadratic phase change of the field and mitted through the aperture. Therefore, the Kerr medium
thus acts, for n 2 > 0, as a positive lens (called a Kerr with the aperture, like a fast saturable absorber, intro-
lens) of dioptric power 1/ f = 4n 2lIp /(n 0 w2 ), which duces losses that decrease when the instantaneous pulse
increases as the beam intensity Ip increases. If an aper- intensity is increased, thus leading to mode-locking.
ture is placed at some suitable distance from the Kerr Note that, by appropriately controlling the cavity dis-
medium, a beam with higher intensity will be focused persion, the shortest mode-locked pulses (≈ 6 fs) have
tighter and a higher fraction of the beam will be trans- been achieved by this technique for Ti3+ :Al2 O3 lasers.

11.2 Solid-State Lasers

11.2.1 Basics crystals [11.28, 29] as tunable room-temperature lasers
has stimulated further research in transition-metal ions.
Solid-State Lasers Interesting new results have been obtained with the Cr4+
Based on Dielectric Insulators ion [11.30–33] and recently also with the divalent Cr2+
The demonstration of the ruby laser [11.16] ion [11.34].
(Cr3+ :Al2 O3 ) in 1960 led to a decade with the realization Nowadays, average and CW output powers for
of a number of crystalline and glass lasers. Especially Nd3+ - and Yb3+ -doped crystals in the kW range are
Nd:YAG [11.17], Nd-doped yttrium aluminum garnet commercially available. Fiber lasers reach output pow-
(Nd:Y3 Al5 O12 ), rapidly emerged as one of the most im- ers in the 100 W range with nearly diffraction-limited
portant crystalline dielectric lasers. The first glass laser beam quality.
was a fiber laser [11.18], which decades later led to Compact solid-state lasers in the visible spectral re-
the development of highly efficient Er-doped fiber am- gion (see for instance [11.35]) are of potential interest,
plifiers (EFDA) with important applications in optical especially for display and high-density optical data stor-
communications. age applications. Optical efficiencies of more than 20%
In the last two decades progress in the area of with respect to the pump power can be obtained in Nd
diode-pumped lasers has contributed very much to lasers by internal frequency doubling with nonlinear
a renaissance in the field of solid-state lasers. With crystals. An alternative approach enables the genera-
diode laser pumping it is possible to obtain higher tion of visible laser radiation by upconversion schemes,
efficiencies and to build rigid all-solid-state devices which incorporate energy transfer processes or two-
with simpler and more compact design. Besides Nd3+ step pump processes as ground-state and excited-state
various efficient diode-pumped rare-earth lasers have absorption.
been operated with Er3+ , Tm3+ , Ho3+ [11.19–21], In a most general sense lasers based on solids include
and Yb3+ [11.22, 23]. In addition, the successful op- both dielectric insulators and semiconductors as gain
eration of Cr3+ -doped [11.24–27] and Ti3+ -doped media. However, the development in the past yielded
Lasers and Coherent Light Sources 11.2 Solid-State Lasers 615

a subdivision into two laser classes based on solids: can be determined according to Hund’s rule. Fig. 11.29
solid-state lasers (the topic of this chapter) and semi- shows the 4fn energy levels of rare-earth ions (Dieke
conductor lasers (Sect. 11.3). diagram [11.37]).
Nearly all modern, important solid-state lasers are Electric dipole transitions within the 4f-shell are par-
based on impurity-doped crystals or glasses. Typically, ity forbidden in the free ion. When doped in a solid,
the impurity ions have unfilled electronic shells. So far, acentric perturbations of the crystal field can however
only laser ions from the iron, rare-earth and actinide create admixtures of wave functions with opposite parity

Part C 11.2
group are known. The most important laser lines of these (for instance 4fn−1 5d1 states) yielding so-called forced
ions correspond to 4f–4f, 4f–5d, and 3d–3d transitions. electric dipole transitions. Due to the screening of the
In special cases the laser active ions can also be fully outer filled 5s2 and 5p6 orbitals, the crystal field per-
substituted into the lattice (stoichiometric laser mater- turbation is small and electron–phonon coupling is very
ials). It should be noted that in the past lattice defects weak. So, for rare-earth ions at acentric sites one ob-
also have been used as laser-active centers (color cen- serves electric-dipole zero-phonon transitions with very
ter lasers); these lasers are however not included in this weak vibronic sidebands. When doping occurs at cen-
chapter. tric sites, parity remains a good quantum number and all
4f–4f transitions remain electric dipole forbidden. The
Spectra of Rare-Earth magnetic-dipole emission cross sections are then very
and Transition-Metal Ions in Solids small and are not useful for laser applications.
4f–4f transitions in rare-earth ions. In the free rare- Further selection rules for electric dipole transitions
earth ion the electrostatic interaction between the 4f between 4fn states are:
electrons creates a splitting of the energy levels of the
4fn configuration into different L S terms. The resultant • ∆J ≤ 6; ∆S = 0, ∆L ≤ 6 (Russel–Saunders approx-
wave functions are characterized by the quantum num- imation)
bers L, S, M L , and M S . The electrostatic energy splitting • J = 0 ⇔ J = 0 is forbidden.
of the {2S+1} L terms is typically 104 cm−1 , and each level
is (2L + 1)(2S + 1)-fold degenerate with respect to M L 3d–3d transitions in transition-metal ions. The 3d
and M S . electrons of transition-metal ions are not shielded and
In addition, the energy levels are further split by experience a strong perturbation from the crystal field
spin–orbit coupling. If the energetic separation between of the surrounding ligand ions. Therefore, the energy-
different L S terms is large compared with the spin– level scheme and also the spectroscopic characteristics
orbit coupling energy there is only a small mixing of of a transition metal ion depend strongly on the strength
the L S terms. If this mixing is very small, the Russel– and the symmetry of the crystalline field originating
Saunders approximation holds and the wave functions from the surrounding ions. The energy-level schemes
are characterized by the quantum numbers L, S, J, M J of the transition-metal ions in crystalline hosts are de-
with a degeneration of (2J + 1). The typical splitting of scribed by so-called Tanabe–Sugano diagrams [11.38].
{2S+1} L terms is of the order of 1000 cm−1 . Although
J These diagrams are distinguished by the number of elec-
L S coupling is not strictly valid for rare-earth ions, it is trons within the 3d electron shell. In these diagrams the
usual to describe the 4f energy states with the Russel– energy levels of the transition-metal ion are presented as
Saunders approximation [11.36]. a function of the crystal field strength (for some exam-
The interaction of the 4f electrons with the crystal ples, see Sect. 11.2.3). For detailed reading appropriate
field, i. e., the electrostatic field of the surrounding lig- literature can be found in [11.36, 39–42].
ands, results in a Stark splitting of the free ion {2S+1} L J Due to the strong interaction with the surrounding
terms. This interaction can be treated as a perturbation of ions of the lattice, transition-metal ions mostly exhibit
the free ion levels. The crystal field splitting and the re- broadband emission because of the electron–phonon
maining degeneracy depend on the symmetry of the local coupling between the electronic 3d levels and lattice
crystal field. Lower symmetries increase the number of vibrations. As in the case of 4f–4f transitions, only
split levels. However, according to Kramers theorem an acentric perturbations can induce electric dipole transi-
odd number of electrons always yields at least twofold tions. Generally the spectra consist of a purely electronic
degeneracy. The Stark splitting is typically in the energy zero-phonon line with vibronic sidebands. In contrast
range of several 100 cm−1 . The ground state of a special to the situation in rare-earth ions, transition-metal ions
4fn configuration (the number of 4f electrons n = 1–14) at centric sites may also have reasonable transition
616 Part C Coherent and Incoherent Light Sources

Energy E (103 cm–1)

1S 6D 1S
40 0
38 3P
6I 1I
4G 3P 6
Part C 11.2

Z T 1
36 C 7
2 Y

O 2D 3P
N 5D 5 P 0
M 4 2

34 R
6P L W 3L
R 7
3 V 3M 8 2K
Q 2 U
T Q 10 Q 13
P B 5 K 2
32 O
A 7
2 2P
S P 3
L J 2
30 M
H 5G
4D 3
1 2G
2 G 2 7
K 5D N
28 L 3
I 4
6 O
2 K 15 1D
M 9/2 2 2
U O 5 G'
L 5 M
5L 4G
2P G C 10 3K 11
26 K 3
F B 5D
7 2
M 5G
E 4 2H
L I 9
R 5D 2
2D K D 3 K
24 5
2 Q
P I 4G
J 5
2P 11
I 1 H 2
2O 4F
3P H 5F 3
4I I 2
22 1I
11 M
N G G 15
6 H 5
F C 2 8 1G
6 2 4F H
1 G 3/2 9 9 G 4
2 E 5D F 2 2 4F
P D F 7
0 4G A 4 3 G 2
20 2G
C 7
2 2H
F 11
7 4F 2
E 2 5 S 1 F
S 2 4 4S
E E 3
4G 5S
18 2G
A 5
2 2

2 5 H
1D D 2 A 0
2 G
11 5F
16 C
F 5 5F
5 4F
D 9
4F D 3F
2 2
B 9
2E 4
4S D 5S 6F 3
14 3
2 1
A 7 C 3
3 5I
9 2 E 2 C 4
2 4
S 5 B 2 5
9 4
2A 1 B 2
12 3
R 2 7
2 B 5
6F C
O 11 6H 2F
1G 2 5 A 11
10 4
2 2 5
9 2 7
P 2 A 2 3H
A 6
8 R
3F 2 6H
4 4I V 8 S 15 13
2 Y 2
3 15 T 3
2 7F
6 2
U 1
2 0 X
7F 1
2 13 2 Y 7
3H W 7 V 2 6
6 13 3
4 2
W 11
X 6 4 Y 2
7 X 9
2 5 11 2
2 2
Y 5

Y 7
2 2

Z 1
0 Z Z Z Z

2 3 4 5 6 7 8 7 6 5 4 3 2
F5/2 H4 I9/2 I4 H5/2 F0 S7/2 F6 H15/2 I8 I15/2 H6 F7/2
n 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13
Ce3+ Pr 3+ Nd3+ Pm3+ Sm3+ Eu3+ Gd3+ Tb3+ Dy3+ Ho3+ Er3+ Tm3+ Yb3+

Fig. 11.29 Energy level diagrams of trivalent rare earth ions of RE3+ in LaCl3 (“Dieke-diagram”) [11.37]
Lasers and Coherent Light Sources 11.2 Solid-State Lasers 617

probabilities due to dynamical admixtures of wave func- energy-level structure of transition-metal ions is theo-
tions with different parity by acentric phonons. On the retically described by the ligand field theory and the
other hand, strong electron–phonon coupling can yield angular overlap model (AOM), see for instance [11.43].
higher temperature-dependent nonradiative decay rates
compared to 4f–4f transitions. The main interest in Spontaneous emission and emission cross section.
transition-metal ions is based on their broad tunability. The spontaneous emission is characterized by the Ein-
stein coefficient A. In an emission measurement, the

Part C 11.2
Interconfigurational 4f–5d transitions in rare-earth photon flux (the number of photons per area per time)
ions. Typically 4f↔5d interconfigurational transitions is usually measured. The normalization process with
of rare-earth ions are located in the ultraviolet spec- respect to the instrument response function can be per-
tral range. In some cases 4f↔5d transitions are also formed either with respect to photon flux or to the
observed in the visible spectral region. In contrast to spectral intensity distribution Iλ (λ) (energy per area per
3d↔3d and 4f↔4f transitions, 4f↔5d transitions are time). The relation between the spectral intensity dis-
electric-dipole allowed, because they obey the parity tribution Iλ (λ), the Einstein coefficient A (A = τrad )
selection rule. Thus high transition probabilities and and the emission cross section σem (λ) is given by the
hence large absorption and emission cross sections Füchtbauer–Ladenburg equation [11.44]:
(≈ 10−18 –10−17 cm2 ) are observed.
λ5 Iλ (λ)A
Similar to 3d↔3d transitions strong electron– σem (λ) =  , (11.74)
phonon coupling yields broad absorption and emission 8πn 2 c Iλ (λ)λ dλ
spectra with spectral half-widths of more than where n is the refractive index and c is the speed of light.
1000 cm−1 . Therefore 4f↔5d interconfigurational tran- The emission cross sections can also be calculated
sitions are in principle suitable for the generation of from the absorption cross sections by the reciprocity
tunable laser oscillation. method
However, the difficulty in finding suitable pump  
Zl E zl − hc/λ
sources and often also excited-state absorption processes σem (λ) = σGSA (λ) exp ,
Zu kT
are major drawbacks with respect to the realization of
5d–4f lasers.
where Z l and Z u are the partition functions of the lower
Basic Spectroscopic Properties and upper energy levels, E zl is the energy of the zero-
and Laser Parameters phonon line of the corresponding transition, k is the
Ground-state absorption. The ground-state absorption Boltzmann constant, and T is the temperature.
of an ion is characterized by the absorption coefficient For Gaussian band shapes, which are often observed
α and the ground-state absorption cross section σGSA . for emission spectra of transition-metal ions, the Mc-
These values are derived using the Lambert–Beer law: Cumber formula can be used for the determination of
−n ion σ
GSA (λ)d , the peak emission cross section [11.45, 46]
I (λ) = I0 (λ) e−α(λ)d = I0 (λ) e 
(11.73) ln 2 A λ40
σem = , (11.76)
where I(λ) is the intensity transmitted through the crys- π 4πcn 2 ∆λ
tal at wavelength λ, I0 (λ) is the intensity in front of the where λ0 is the peak emission wavelength and ∆λ is the
crystal, n ion is the ion concentration, α(λ) is the absorp- full width at half-maximum (FWHM).
tion coefficient, σGSA (λ) is the absorption cross section,
and d is the crystal thickness. Excitation spectra. The excitation spectra allow the de-
The ground-state absorption spectrum contains in- termination of those absorption transitions, which yield
formation about the energy-level structure of the ion, a specific emission. These measurements are interesting
the cross sections σGSA (λ) and the oscillator strengths in the case of different absorbing and emitting centers
of the observed transitions. Note, that the calculation and also for finding energy transfer channels between
of cross sections needs a second independent measure- different optical active centers.
ment of the ion concentration, which is usually done by
X-ray microprobe analysis. The relation between the ab- Emission lifetime. The decay time of the metastable
sorption coefficient and the transition-matrix elements level of an ion in a crystal is usually measured after
can be derived using Fermi’s golden rule [11.36]. The excitation with a short pulse. The measured decay rate
618 Part C Coherent and Incoherent Light Sources

(measured as the number of transitions per unit time) knowledge of ESA processes is also very useful for
is the sum of radiative and nonradiative decay rates. In the determination of their influence on the efficiency of
general, the nonradiative decay of an ion can consist of a laser material. ESA may also inhibit gain and hence
intra-ionic multiphonon processes and intra-ionic nonra- laser action.
diative transfer processes (for details of energy transfer
processes see [11.36]). The equation for the decay is The laser aspect. In this section only the case of steady-
1 1 1 1 state conditions for laser oscillation will be discussed.
Part C 11.2

= A+ = + or For more details and for the case of pulsed excitation,

τ τnr τr τnr
see e.g. [11.49–52].
W = A + Wnr = Wr + Wnr , (11.77)
The efficiency of a laser system can be described
where τ, τr , and τnr are the total, radiative, and nonra- by the laser threshold Pthr and the slope efficiency
diative decay times, respectively, and W, Wr , and Wnr η = dPout / dPabs , where Pout and Pabs are the laser out-
are the total, radiative, and nonradiative decay rates, put power and the absorbed pump power, respectively.
respectively. Under the assumptions of only one metastable level (i. e.,
The determination of the Einstein coefficient A is not the upper laser level), ideal overlap between pump beam
an easy task, because in a simple decay measurement and resonator mode, homogeneous pump profile, low
the combined lifetime is always measured. An addi- mirror transmission and low passive losses as well as the
tional measurement of the emission quantum efficiency absence of excited-state absorption, the following equa-
ηQE would allow the determination of the radiative and tions hold for continuous-wave operation [11.49, 50]
nonradiative decay rate
τ Wr Wr Pthr =
ηQE = = = ηp σse (λl ) τ
τr W Wr + Wnr   V
τ τr τ × T + L + 2dσGSA (λl ) (n ion − n thr )
⇒ τr = and τnr = . (11.78) 2d
ηQE τr − τ
(3-level system) , (11.79)
However, a direct measurement of the quantum effi-
hνp V
ciency is difficult and usually contains a high error. Pthr = (T + L)
Another approach is the indirect determination of ηp σse (λl ) τ 2d
the quantum efficiency by analysis of the temperature (4-level system) , (11.80)
dependence of the emission lifetime. The two most com- λp T
monly used models are the simple Mott model of the η = ηp , (11.81)
λl T + L
activation energy [11.47] and the more-sophisticated
model of Struck and Fonger [11.48] using the so- where hνp is the energy of pump photon, ηp is the
called single-configurational-coordinate model, which pumping efficiency, i. e., the fraction of absorbed pump
describes in a simplified way the interaction between photons that are converted into excited ions in the upper
the electronic center and the vibrating crystalline envi- laser level, σse is the stimulated emission cross section,
ronment. τ is the lifetime of the upper laser level, T is the mir-
ror transmission, L is the passive losses, d is the length
Excited-state absorption (ESA). Measurements of the of the laser crystal, σgsa is the ground-state absorption
excited-state absorption (ESA) spectrum give further cross section, n is the concentration of laser ions, n thr
insight into the energy-level structure of an ion. In is the threshold inversion density, λp is the pump wave-
the ground state absorption measurements spin-allowed length, λl is the laser wavelength, and V is the pump
transitions are mainly observed and often spin-flip tran- volume.
sitions are hidden under these absorption bands. Thus In the following, several factors affecting the pump
the determination of the energy of these spin-flip transi- power threshold and the slope efficiency will be dis-
tions is often not possible. If the metastable level of the cussed.
ion has a different spin to the ground state (e.g., Cr3+
in strong crystal fields, Mn5+ , Fe6+ ), the ESA spec- Influence of the emission quantum efficiency ηQE .
trum reveals the energetic positions of these states with A quantum efficiency less than unity leads to lifetime
different spin. By using these data the crystal field pa- shortening and therefore to an increase in the laser
rameters can be determined with higher accuracy. The threshold, as can be seen from (11.79) and (11.80) after
Lasers and Coherent Light Sources 11.2 Solid-State Lasers 619

replacing τ by ηqe τr level according to

hνp n 1 σESA λp
Pthr = (11.82) ηp = ηp,0 1−     ,
ηp σse (λl ) ηqe τr n 1 σESA λp + (n ion − n 1 ) σgsa λp
× T + L + 2dσgsa (λl ) (n ion − n thr ) (11.87)
V 1 where ηp,0 is the pumping efficiency without ESA, n ion is
× ∝ , (3-level) (11.83) the concentration of active ions, and n 1 is the population
2d ηqe

Part C 11.2
hνp V 1 density in the upper laser level. Therefore the pump
Pthr = (T + L) ∝ (4-level) . threshold is increased and the laser slope efficiency is
ηp ηqe σse τr 2d ηqe reduced according to (11.79, 80, 81).
(11.84) ESA on the laser wavelength also affects the laser
The quantum efficiency does not influence the slope threshold and the slope efficiency. The stimulated emis-
efficiency directly (11.81). However in practice a cor- sion cross section σse (λl ) in (11.79) and (11.80) is
responding, significant contribution of nonradiative replaced by σEFF (λl ) = σse (λl ) − σESA (λl ) and (11.81)
transitions increases the temperature in the pump vol- has to be extended [11.54]
ume and usually leads to a lower slope efficiency due λp σse (λl ) − σESA (λl ) T σEFF
η = ηp ∝ .
to further lifetime reduction and other problems such as λl σse (λl ) T +L σse
thermal lensing. (11.88)
If σESA (λl ) > σse (λl ) laser oscillation is not possi-
Influence of passive losses L. Passive losses in a laser ble.
system are due to imperfect optical components in the
laser resonator. This can be due to, e.g., stray centers 11.2.2 UV and Visible Rare-Earth Ion Lasers
and residual absorptions. Passive losses influence both
the threshold and the slope efficiency (11.79, 80, 81). In Lasers based on 5d ↔ 4f transitions of trivalent
a four-level system, the passive losses can be determined and divalent rare-earth ions
by the Findlay–Clay method [11.53]. For such an anal- In this section an overview of lasers oscillating in the
ysis, the laser threshold is measured as a function of ultraviolet and visible spectral range based on transi-
the output mirror transmission. The following equation tions of rare-earth ions is given. The first part deals with
holds: laser and possible laser systems based on interconfigu-
hνp V hνp V rational transitions, i. e., 4fn−1 5d → 4fn . In the second
Pthr = T+ L = mT + b , part, visible and UV lasers based on intraconfigurational
ηp σse τ 2d ηp σse τ 2d
(4fn →4fn ) transitions will be discussed. Both parts deal
with crystals as host materials. Finally, in the third part
hν an overview of fiber lasers in the visible spectral range
with slope m = ηp σsep τ 2d
and axis parameter b = m L.
is given.
From a linear fit to Pthr = Pthr (T ) both m and b are The 4f↔5d interconfigurational transitions of some
determined and thus the value of the passive losses L. divalent (RE2+ ) and trivalent (RE3+ ) rare-earth ions
An alternative way to determine the passive losses is to are located in the visible and ultraviolet spectral
rewrite (11.81) for a so-called Caird plot [11.54]: range. They are in principle suitable for the realiza-
1 λ L λ 1 tion of (tunable) laser oscillation. The transitions are
= + = m + b , (11.86) electric-dipole allowed and have high transition proba-
η ηp λp T ηp λp T
bilities and large absorption and emission cross sections
with slope m = ηpλλp L = b L. From a linear fit to η1 = of the order of 10−17 to 10−18 cm2 . Due to their

strong electron–phonon coupling, the observed absorp-
1 1
η T both m and b can be determined and thus the tion and emission transitions are broad (> 1000 cm−1 ).
value of the passive losses L. Difficulties with respect to laser operation are the non-
availability of efficient and simple excitation sources
Influence of excited-state absorption. ESA at the and the high probability of excited-state absorption and
pump wavelength reduces the number of pump pho- solarization (photoionization), e.g., Ce3+ :LiCaAlF6 and
tons converted into excited ions in the metastable laser Ce3+ :LiSrAlF6 depicted in Fig. 11.30.
620 Part C Coherent and Incoherent Light Sources

degenerated 2 T2 state and of a twofold orbital degener-

Conduction band of host ated 2 E level, from which the 2 T2 (2 E) state is at lower
energy in octahedral (cubic) symmetry. In Fig. 11.31 the
room-temperature absorption and emission spectrum of
óesa â ósol Ce3+ :LiYF4 is shown. In general, in the absorption spec-
3+ trum two to five broad bands are expected, depending
t2g (5d1) Impurity on the crystal field symmetry. In emission two bands
Part C 11.2

trap corresponding to the 5d→ 2 F5/2 and 5d→ 2 F7/2 tran-

óabs sitions with an energetic separation of approximately
28 ns 0.3 s 2000 cm−1 are observed. The high cross sections of
Ce 3+ the electric-dipole- and spin-allowed 4f1 ↔5d1 transi-
F5/2 (4f1) tions correspond to an emission lifetime in the ns range.
Ce3+ -doped materials were therefore thoroughly inves-
tigated for application as tunable solid-state lasers and
Valence band of host
scintillators, see e.g., the overview articles by Coutts
et al. [11.57] and Dorenbos [11.58]. Laser oscillation
Fig. 11.30 Scheme of the energy levels in Ce3+ -doped was thus far achieved in YLiF4 [11.56], LuLiF4 [11.59],
LiCaAlF6 and LiSrAlF6 , where sABS , sEM , sESA , and sSOL , LiCaAlF6 [11.60], LiSrAlF6 [11.55, 61], LaF3 [11.62],
are the absorption, emission, ESA, and solarization cross and BaY2 F8 [11.63] crystals. The laser data are sum-
sections, respectively. From [11.55] marized in Table 11.2. For Ce3+ -doped materials the
main obstacle with respect to laser oscillation is excited-
In the following the trivalent and divalent rare- state absorption assigned to transitions to the conduction
earth ions exhibiting short-wavelength emission will band, e.g., as is the case for Ce3+ :YAG [11.64, 65]. For
be briefly discussed together with a summary of the Ce3+ -doped LiCaAlF6 and LiSrAlF6 the ESA transi-
obtained laser results. tion leads to a solarization, i. e., impurity traps with
long lifetimes are populated (Fig. 11.30). With the help
Ce3+ Lasers. The Ce3+ 4f1 ground-state configura- of an anti-solarent pump, these traps are depleted and
tion splits into the 2 F5/2 ground state and the 2 F7/2 higher efficiencies are obtained [11.66, 67].
excited-state multiplet with an energy separation of ≈
2000 cm−1 . The 5d excited configuration consists in an Pr3+ (4f 2 ). The energy-level scheme of Pr3+ is shown
ideal octahedral or cubic symmetry of a threefold orbital schematically in Fig. 11.32. Pr3+ has a 4f2 ground-state

Absorbance Fluorescence (arb.units) Output energy (mJ)

3 0.3

2.5 0.25

2 0.2
Fluorescence Slope 47 %
1.5 0.15
} 4f

1 Absorption 0.1

0.5 0.05

0 0
200 250 300 350 0 0.1 0.2 0.3 0.4 0.5 0.6 0.7
Wavelength (nm) Absorbed input energy (mJ)

Fig. 11.31 Left: Absorption (solid line) and emission (dotted line) spectra of Ce3+ :LiYF4 . The inset shows the schematic
energy level diagram. From [11.56]. Right: Input-output characteristic of a 2% Ce3+ , 2% Na:LiSrAlF6
Lasers and Coherent Light Sources 11.2 Solid-State Lasers 621

Table 11.2 Overview of lasers based on the 5d→4f transitions of trivalent and divalent rare-earth ions (CVL: copper vapor laser,
RS: Raman-shifted)
Laser material λlas (nm) Eout , Pout ηsl Tuning range (nm) Pump source Ref.
Ce3+ :LiYF4 325.5 KrF, 249 nm [11.56]
Ce3+ :LiLuF4 309 27 mJ 17% 307.8– 311.7 & 323.5– 326.5 KrF, 249 nm [11.75]
2.1 mJ 55% 307.6– 313.5 & 324 –328.5 Ce:LiSAF, 290 nm [11.76, 77]
309 77 µJ 309.5– 312.3 & 324.5– 327.7 Nd:YAG, 5ω(213 nm) [11.78]

Part C 11.2
309.5 300 mW 38% 305.5– 316 & 323–331 CVL, 2ω(289 nm), 7 kHz [11.79]
309 67 mW 62% RS Nd:YAG, 4ω(289 nm), [11.80]
10 kHz
Ce3+ :LiCaAlF6 290 21% Nd:YAG, 4ω(266 nm) [11.55]
289 60 mJ 26% Nd:YAG, 4ω(266 nm) [11.81]
289 30 mJ 39% 284–294 Nd:YAG, 4ω(266 nm) [11.82]
289 550 mW 27% 280–311 Nd:YAG, 4ω(266 nm), 1 kHz [11.83]
288.5 530 mW 32% 280.5– 316 2ω CVL, 271 nm, 7 kHz [11.79]
289 0.53 µJ 31% 283–314 Nd:YVO4 , 4ω(266 nm), 1 kHz [11.84]
289 230 µJ 49% 280–317 Nd:YLiF4 , 4ω(263.3 nm), [11.85]
0.1–4.3 kHz
Ce3+ :LiSrAlF6 290 29% Nd:YAG, 4ω(266 nm) [11.55]
290 47% Nd:YAG, 4ω(266 nm) [11.66]
+ 2ω(532 nm)
281–315 nm Nd:YAG, 4ω(266 nm) [11.86]
Ce3+ :LaF3 286 ≈ 5 µJ KrF, 249 nm [11.62]
Ce3+ :BaY2 F8 345 XeCl, 308 nm [11.63]
Nd3+ :LaF3 172 Kr, 146 nm [11.87, 88]
F2 Laser, 157 nm [11.89, 90]
Sm2+ :CaF2 708.5 708.5–745 nm (20–210 K) Xe flash lamp [11.91, 92]
(20 K)

configuration. In this configuration 91 energy levels Other RE3+ ions. The lowest 4fn−1 5d1 energy levels for
exist, distributed over 11 manifolds, from which the ions from Nd3+ to Yb3+ are at even higher energies
3 H level is the ground state and 1 S is the highest and therefore in the vacuum ultraviolet (VUV) spec-
4 0
level at approximately 46 500 cm−1 . In the 4f1 5d1 con- tral region. Thus the corresponding transitions are not
figuration, 140 energy levels exist. Depending on the easy to access spectroscopically. A systematic study and
crystal field strength and splitting, either the lowest detailed analysis of the VUV spectroscopy of trivalent
4f1 5d1 level or the 1 S0 state is lower in energy. Thus rare-earth ions were performed by Wegh et al. [11.93].
after UV excitation, emission occurs either from the The exploitation of these VUV transitions for laser os-
4f1 5d1 level as a 4f1 5d1 →4f2 transition or from the 1 S0 cillation still requires much experimental efforts. Laser
level as a 4f2 →4f2 transition. In any case, the emis- oscillation on a 5d→4f transition besides for Ce3+ has
sion spectrum consists of several bands, because several thus far only been realized with Nd3+ :LaF3 at 172 nm
4f2 terminal levels exist. Spectroscopic investigations with a Kr2 laser at 146 nm as the pump source [11.87].
of the 4f↔5d transitions have so far been carried out
for a number of materials, e.g., Y3 Al5 O12 [11.68, 69], Divalent rare-earth ions. Rare-earth ions have a strong
YAlO3 [11.68, 70, 71], CaF2 , LiYF4 [11.71–73], and tendency to be incorporated into crystals in the trivalent
K5 PrLi2 F10 [11.71]. Thus far laser oscillation based state. In order to obtain the divalent state, the RE3+ ion
on the 4f1 5d1 →4f2 or on the 1 S0 →4f2 emission of needs to be reduced. Eu2+ , Yb2+ , Sm2+ and, with some
Pr3+ has not achieved. The main reason seems to be limitations, Tm2+ can already be obtained in significant
excited-state absorption into the conduction band, e.g., amounts during crystal growth by using suitable lattices
for YLiF4 [11.73], and into higher-lying 4f1 5d1 levels, containing divalent cation sites, appropriate codopants,
e.g., for Y3 Al5 O12 [11.74]. and a reducing growth atmosphere. The other RE2+ ions
622 Part C Coherent and Incoherent Light Sources

a) E (×1000 cm–1) b) E (×1000 cm–1)

Pr3+: LiYF4 Pr3+: YF3

90 90

80 80
Part C 11.2

70 70
t2g t2g
60 4f5d 60 4f5d
eg eg
50 50
1 1
S0 S0
40 Excitation 40

30 30 Emission
Emission S 0 ® 1I 6
P2,1,0, 1I 6 3
P2,1,0, 1I 6
20 20
D2 D2
10 1
G4 10 G4
F4,3,2 ×4
3 3
0 H6,5,4 0 H6,5,4

Fig. 11.32a,b Energy-level schemes of Pr3+ (a) Pr3+ :LiYF4 , E(4f 1 5d1 ) < E(1 S0 ), (b) Pr3+ :YF3 , E(4f 1 5d1 ) > E(1 S0 ).
(After [11.94])

are rather difficult to obtain in crystals; usually special Eu2+ (4f7 ). The 4f7 energy-level scheme of Eu2+ is
growth conditions as well as pre- and post-treatments spectroscopically similar to that of Gd3+ (Fig. 11.29).
are necessary, e.g., the use of sealed Ta ampoules dur- A large energy gap between the 8 S7/2 ground state and
ing crystal growth, pre-synthesis of REF2 and RECl2 , the 6 P7/2 first excited state exists. Depending on the
electron-beam irradiation etc. crystal field strength, the lowest 4f6 5d1 energy level is
5d→4f transitions are expected to occur for systems located above or below the 6 P7/2 level. Therefore, either
in which the 4fn−1 5d level is energetically located within narrow line emission due to the 6 P7/2 → 8 S7/2 transi-
a large energy gap between 4fn multiplets. These ions tion in the UV region or broadband emission due to the
are Sm2+ , Eu2+ , Tm2+ , and Yb2+ . 4f6 5d1 → 8 S7/2 transition in the blue to yellow spectral
range occurs. Laser oscillation based on a 4f6 5d1 →4f7
Sm2+ (4f6 ). The 4f6 energy-level scheme of Sm2+ is transition of Eu2+ has not been realized thus far due to
spectroscopically similar to that of Eu3+ (Fig. 11.29). excited-state absorption from the lowest 4f6 5d1 level to
For most crystals, Sm2+ emission occurs as a 4f6 →4f6 the conduction band and to high-lying 4f7 levels [11.96].
transition from the metastable 5 D0 level, which is located
at about 15 000 cm−1 . In CaF2 , the lowest 4f5 5d1 level Tm2+ (4f13 ). The 4f13 energy-level scheme of Tm2+ is
is located just below the 5 D0 level and broadband emis- spectroscopically similar to that of Yb3+ (Fig. 11.29).
sion occurs. Laser oscillation based on a 4f5 5d1 →4f6 Laser oscillation of Tm2+ was realized in CaF2 on the
transition was realized with Sm2+ :CaF2 [11.91,92]. The 5/2 → F7/2 transition at 1116 nm at temperatures be-
2F 2

laser wavelength is 708.5 nm at 20 K and increases with low 27 K [11.97,98] (Table 11.9). Laser oscillation based
temperature to 745 nm at 210 K, which is the highest op- on the 4f12 5d1 → 4f13 transition has not been obtained
eration temperature of the Sm2+ :CaF2 laser. This laser thus far. However, Tm2+ is an interesting candidate for
is affected by excited-state absorption assigned to tran- laser oscillation on a 4f12 5d1 → 4f13 transition, because
sitions to the conduction band and to high-lying 4f6 there are no high-lying 4f13 energy levels, which could
levels [11.95, 96]. interfere with the 4f12 5d1 energy levels and thus act as
Lasers and Coherent Light Sources 11.2 Solid-State Lasers 623

possible terminal levels for excited-state absorption tran-

sitions or quenching processes. The transition between E (103 cm–1)
the lowest 4f12 5d1 level and the ground state is parity » 720 nm
30 » 700 nm » 910 nm
allowed, but spin forbidden. Thus the emission cross » 640 nm » 470 nm
» 600 nm » 530 nm
sections are expected to be about one to two orders of » 540 nm » 880 nm
» 490 nm » 630 nm
magnitude smaller compared to, e.g., those of the 5d→4f 3
I6 P2
transitions of Ce3+ . The Tm2+ → Tm3+ conversion ob- 3 3
20 P0

Part C 11.2
served under UV/VIS lamp excitation [11.98] indicates
the strong tendency of the Tm ion towards the triva- 1
lent state and has to be considered as a possible major
drawback for laser applications.
10 1
Yb2+ (4f14 ). The ground-state configuration of the Yb2+ F4 3
ion is 4f14 . This completely filled shell leads to a 1 S0 3
H2 3
ground state of the free ion and other 4f14 levels 3
do not exist. In an octahedral crystal field, this state 0 H4
transforms like the 1 A1 irreducible representation. The
excited 4f13 5d1 configuration consists in total of 140 Fig. 11.33 Energy-level scheme of the Pr3+ ion. The ob-
energy levels. The 4f13 5d level splits in a highly sym- served laser transitions in the visible spectral range are
metric crystal field into a threefold degenerated T2 indicated by arrows
and a twofold degenerated E level. The 4f13 elec-
trons can be considered as a Yb3+ -ion configuration ions. Laser oscillation has been realized under flashlamp
with the two manifolds 2 F7/2 and 2 F5/2 separated by pumping, direct laser pumping into the upper laser level
about ∆E 4 f ≈ 10 000 cm−1 . The spin of the 5d elec- or higher-lying energy levels and under upconversion
tron can either be parallel or antiparallel to that of pumping.
the 4f13 core, thus the whole energy-level scheme
exists for singlet and for triplet states, from which, Pr3+ lasers. The Pr3+ ion is a very interesting and
according to Hunds’ rule, the triplet states are ener- promising ion for obtaining efficient visible laser os-
getically lower. Note furthermore that for the Yb2+ cillation. Its energy-level scheme is shown in Fig. 11.33.
free ion the 6s level is energetically lower than the
5d level. Therefore it might be the case that in
some materials the 4f13 6s level is also the lowest óem (10–19 cm2)
excited state. This would lead to a parity- and spin- 4
E II a 3
forbidden transition requiring ∆L = 3 and ∆S = 1. The P 0 ® 3H 6
emission spectra of Yb2+ -doped materials consists of 2 P 0 ® 3F 4
a broad band (≈ 6000 cm−1 ) with the peak emission
3 3
P0 ® H 4 3
3 3
P0 ® F 2 3 3
P0 ® F 3
P 0 ® 3H 5
wavelength strongly dependent on the host material
(λpeak ≈ 390–575 nm) [11.99–103]. Laser oscillation E II b
has not been obtained thus far. The main reason is 5
P 1 ® 3H 4
excited-state absorption. In Yb2+ :MgF2 strong ESA 3
P 1 ® 3F 2
P 1 ® 3F 4
3 3 3 3
transitions in the whole spectral range of absorption P1 ® H 5 P1 ® H 6 3
P 1 ® 3F 3
and emission are observed, preventing laser oscillation. 0
The ESA cross section is about one order of magnitude E II c
larger than the absorption cross section and three orders 5
of magnitude larger than the stimulated emission cross
section [11.102, 103].
Lasers based on 4f ↔ 4f transitions of trivalent 500 550 600 650 700 750
Wavelength ë (nm)
and divalent rare-earth ions
This section deals with UV and visible lasers based on Fig. 11.34 Emission spectra of Pr3+ :BaY2 F8 at room temperature
the 4f↔4f transitions of trivalent and divalent rare-earth for different polarizations
624 Part C Coherent and Incoherent Light Sources

Laser transitions in the visible spectral range occur from characterization of a Pr3+ -doped laser material. For
the 3 P0 and the thermally populated 3 P1 and 3 P2 levels. Pr3+ :LiYF4 , laser oscillation on several transitions
In Fig. 11.34 the emission spectrum of the Pr3+ :BaY2 F8 has been obtained with slope efficiencies up to
as an example is shown. The peak cross sections are in ≈ 26% and output powers up to ≈ 270 mW [11.106]
the range of ≈ 1 to 5 × 10−19 cm2 and thus comparable (Fig. 11.36). However, the wavelength match be-
to the values of the Nd3+ 4 F3/2 → 4 I11/2 transition. The tween the Ar+ pump and Pr3+ absorption is bad
highest cross sections are in the orange and red spectral (Fig. 11.35). Furthermore Ar+ -ion laser pumping
Part C 11.2

range, therefore the most efficient lasers are expected itself is very inefficient, therefore the overall ef-
there. The first Pr3+ laser (λ = 1047 nm) was realized ficiency of a gas-laser-pumped Pr3+ laser is very
in CaWO4 as early as 1962 by Yariv et al. [11.104]. low.
Since then, laser oscillation has been obtained in more 2. Pumping with a frequency-doubled Nd3+ laser op-
than 20 materials on several transitions and under differ- erating on the 4 F3/2 → 4 I9/2 ground-state transition.
ent pumping conditions, see e.g., the review article by These ground-state lasers operate, depending on the
Kaminskii [11.105]. The major drawback of Pr3+ lasers host material, between 910 nm and 960 nm, i. e.,
is their excitation; see the discussion in section on Pr3+ the frequency doubling yields wavelengths between
laser. 455 nm and 480 nm. A Pr3+ laser directly pumped by
a frequency-doubled Nd3+ :YAG ground-state laser
Directly pumped Pr3+ lasers. In Fig. 11.35 the absorp- operating at 473 nm has been successfully demon-
tion spectrum of Pr3+ :BaY2 F8 for the spectral range strated by Heumann et al. [11.107]. Pr3+ laser
between 420 nm and 500 nm is shown. Direct pumping oscillation occurred at 639.5 nm on the 3 P0 → 3 F2
of the 3 P0 upper laser level is possible for several wave- transition with an output power of nearly 100 mW
lengths in the blue spectral range corresponding to the and a slope efficiency of 12%. Also for frequency-
3 H → 3 P , 3 P , 3 P , and 1 I transitions. In principle doubled Nd3+ ground-state lasers the match between
4 2 1 0 6
the following pumping schemes for direct excitation are the pump and absorption wavelength is crucial.
Pout (mW)
1. Ar+ -ion laser pumping. Ar+ -ion lasers offer the 200
possibility of continuous-wave pumping with a high- ë = 522 nm
quality pump beam. Therefore it allows the 150 T = 3.7 %, ç = 14.5 %
T = 3.4 %, ç = 3.8 %
100 T < 0.1 %, ç = 0.8 %
óabs (10–19 cm2)
6 50
3+ 3+
Pr , Yb : BaY2F8
300K, E II c 3 0
H 4 ® 3P 0
5 300 ë = 639.5 nm
Ar+, Nd: YAG SHG
T = 0.7 %, ç = 25.9 %
4 200
T = 12.8 %, ç = 20.4 %
Laserdiode Ar+ Ar+ Ar+ Ar+ Ar+
3 3
H 4 ® 3P 2
2 ë = 907.4 nm
H 4 ® 3P 1, 1I 6 20 T = 2 %, ç = 7.3 %
420 440 460 480 500 0
Wavelength (nm) 0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1 1.2
Pabs (mW)
Fig. 11.35 Absorption cross section spectrum of Pr3+ ,
Yb3+ :BaY2 F8 at room temperature. The relevant transi- Fig. 11.36 Input–output diagram of the CW Pr3+ :LiYF4
tions are assigned. The possible pump laser wavelengths laser at different laser wavelengths pumped by an Ar+ -ion
are also shown laser at 457.9 nm. (After [11.106])
Lasers and Coherent Light Sources 11.2 Solid-State Lasers 625

3. Frequency-doubled optically pumped semiconduc- Table 11.3 lists Pr3+ lasers operating in the visible
tor lasers (OPS). These lasers are commercially spectral range under direct excitation. In Table 11.4 an
available with powers up to 200 mW [11.108]. In overview of the room-temperature laser data for visible
principle, the laser wavelength is adjustable (by Pr3+ lasers is given.
choosing the material parameters of the semiconduc-
tor) and can be tuned to match the absorption line Upconversion pumped Pr3+ lasers. Because of the dif-
of the Pr3+ ion. Output powers of approximately ficulties of direct excitation, other pumping schemes

Part C 11.2
35 mW with slope efficiencies of approximately using upconversion processes are under investigation
30% have been obtained [11.109]. Furthermore, for Pr3+ lasers. Upconversion describes a process in
Richter et al. used an OPS operating at 480 nm as which the photon energy of the excitation light (pump
a direct pump source [11.110]. A slope efficiency light) is converted via interaction with the active ions
of 40% and a maximum output power of 75 mW inside the optical material into higher-energy pho-
were obtained for Pr3+ :YLiF4 . For Pr3+ :BaY2 F8 , tons [11.113–116]. For Pr3+ with its high-lying energy
the corresponding data are 30% and 51 mW. It is levels upconversion is a suitable way to obtain visible
worth noting that intracavity frequency doubling laser oscillation under infrared pumping. Especially the
leads to continuous-wave UV radiation of about photon-avalanche pumping scheme, which is a com-
19 mW for Pr3+ :YLiF4 and Pr3+ :BaY2 F8 . Due to bination of different upconversion and energy transfer
the multi-wavelength operation of Pr3+ lasers, UV processes, has been efficiently exploited for the Pr,Yb
generation at 360 nm, 303 nm and even 261 nm codoped system. For crystals the Ti:Al2 O3 laser is
seems possible. These pump lasers are still expen- mainly used as the excitation source, but investigations
sive; however power scalability of OPS lasers can be are being performed on the use of commercially avail-
expected making these pump sources very attractive able laser diodes. In fibers, efficient laser operation has
for Pr3+ . already been achieved under laser-diode pumping (see
4. Blue and UV GaN laser diodes. These diodes operate page 633, Visible fiber lasers).
thus far in the spectral region below 450 nm and with The principle scheme of the photon-avalanche pro-
output powers in the mW range. Recently, Richter cess is shown in Fig. 11.37. A weak ground-state
et al. obtained laser oscillation at room temperature absorption yields the excitation of a few ions into the
with Pr3+ :YLiF4 under pumping with a 442 nm GaN intermediate (reservoir) level. The strong ESA process
laser diode [11.35]. The Pr3+ laser emits 1.8 mW efficiently brings these ions to the emitting level. An
at 639.7 nm. The threshold pump power and slope effective feedback mechanism for the reservoir level
efficiency were 5.5 mW and 24%, respectively. If the (in our system a cross-relaxation process) is necessary,
development of these diodes towards higher output which couples the emitting level, the reservoir level and
powers proceeds, laser diodes will certainly be one the ground-state level. After these two steps there are
of the best choices for the direct pumping of Pr3+ two ions in the reservoir level. This cycle repeats and
lasers. thus the population of the emitting (upper laser) level
5. Flashlamp pumping [11.111]. Under flashlamp exci- increases like an avalanche. If the threshold population
tation only a small fraction of the emitted radiation is reached, the laser oscillation on any transition from the
of the lamp can be used for the excitation of the upper laser level may start. The general characteristics
Pr3+ 3 P0 level, because of the narrow line width are described in detail in [11.113, 114, 117–119]; here
of the Pr3+ absorption lines and of the small spec- only the main points are given for the example of Pr3+ ,
tral range of these lines. Output energies up to Yb3+ :BaY2 F8 [11.120, 121]. The pump-power depen-
87 mJ and slope efficiencies of 0.3% have been dence of the emission intensity exhibits a threshold-like
obtained [11.111]. behavior. At this threshold, the slope increases sig-
6. Dye-laser pumping. The pump laser wavelength is nificantly. A second characteristic of the avalanche
tunable and thus can be adjusted to match the absorp- mechanism is the temporal S-shaped evolution of the
tion lines of the Pr3+ ion. Therefore, the obtained upconverted emission (Fig. 11.38).
lasers exhibit a high efficiency. For Pr3+ :LiGdF4 The photon-avalanche process has already been ob-
lasers, oscillation on several wavelengths and tran- served in a variety of materials, see e.g. [11.113, 114].
sitions with slope efficiencies up to 37% have been However, laser oscillation has only been obtained in
reported [11.112]. However, dye lasers are limited a few materials, see Table 11.5 for Pr3+ systems and
in their practical use. Table 11.6 for other rare-earth-ion-doped systems. The
626 Part C Coherent and Incoherent Light Sources

Table 11.3 Pr3+ lasers in the visible spectral range under direct excitation (bold: laser oscillation on some transitions
obtained at room temperature)
Crystal Transition Wavelength (nm) Ref.
LiYF4 3 P →3 H 479.0 [11.35, 106, 107, 110, 111, 122–126]
0 4
3 P →3 H 522.0
1 5
3 P →3 H 537.8, 545.0
0 5
Part C 11.2

3 P →3 H 604.4, 607.2, 609.2, 613.0

0 6
3 P →3 F 615.8, 618, 620.1
1 2
3 P →3 F 638.8, 639.5, 644.4
0 2
3 P →3 F 670.3
1 3
3 P →3 F 695.4, 697.7, 705.5
0 3
3 P →3 F 699.4
1 4
1 I →3 F 708.2
6 4
3 P →3 F 719.5, 720.9, 722.2
0 4
LiLuF4 3 P →3 H 538 [11.127, 128]
0 5
3 P →3 H 604.2, 607.1
0 6
3 P →3 F 639.9, 640.1
0 2
3 P →3 F 695.8, 697.7
0 3
3 P →3 F 719.2, 721.5
0 4
LiGdF4 3 P →3 H 522 [11.106, 112]
1 5
3 P →3 H 545
0 5
3 P →3 H 604.5, 607
0 6
3 P →3 F 639
0 2
3 P →3 F 697
0 3
3 P →3 F 720
0 4
KYF4 3 P →3 F 642.5 [11.106, 112]
0 2
BaY2 F8 3 P →3 H 607.1 [11.110, 125, 129–131]
0 6
3 P →3 F 638.8
0 2
3 P →3 F 693.5–693.8
0 3
3 P →3 F 719.1
0 4
LaF3 3 P →3 H 598.5, 600.1 [11.132–135]
0 6
3 P →3 F 719.4, 719.8
0 4
PrF3 3 P →3 H 598.4 [11.136]
0 6
LaCl3 3 P →3 H 489.2 [11.137–139]
0 4
3 P →3 H 529.8
1 5
3 P →3 H 616.4, 619.0
0 6
3 P →3 F 645.1
0 2
PrCl3 3 P →3 H 489.2 [11.137, 140]
0 4
3 P →3 H 529.8, 531
1 5
3 P →3 H 617, 620, 622
0 6
3 P →3 F 645.2, 647
0 2
LaBr3 3 P →3 H 532.0 [11.140]
1 5
3 P →3 H 621.0
0 6
3 P →3 F 632.0
2 3
3 P →3 F 647.0
0 2
PrBr3 3 P →3 H 622 [11.137, 140]
0 6
3 P →3 F 645.1, 649
0 2
Lasers and Coherent Light Sources 11.2 Solid-State Lasers 627

Table 11.3 (continued)

Crystal Transition Wavelength (nm) Ref.
Y3 Al5 O12 3 P →3 H 487.2 [11.141, 142]
0 4
3 P →3 H 616
0 6
3 P →3 F 747
0 4
YAlO3 3 P →3 H 613.9, 621.3, 621.6 [11.143–147]
0 6
3 P →3 F 662

Part C 11.2
0 2
3 P →3 F 719.5, 719.7, 722
0 3
3 P →3 F 746.9
0 4
1 D →3 F 743.7, 753.7
2 3
LuAlO3 3 P →3 H 615.5 [11.144, 145, 147]
0 6
3 P →3 F 722.0
0 3
3 P →3 F 749.6
0 4
SrLaGa3 O7 3 P →3 H 488 [11.148]
0 4
3 P →3 F 645
0 2
CaWO4 3 P →3 F 649.7 [11.149]
0 2
Ca(NbO3 )2 3 P →3 H 610.5 [11.149]
0 6
LiPrP4 O14 3 P →3 H 604.8, 608.5 [11.150]
0 6
3 P →3 F 639.6
0 2
3 P →3 F 720.4
0 4
LaP5 O14 3 P →3 F 637 [11.151]
0 2
3 P →3 F 717
0 4
PrP5 O14 3 P →3 F 637.4 [11.152–154]
0 2
LaP5 O14 3 P →3 F 637.0 [11.151]
0 2

Table 11.4 Overview of room temperature laser data of directly pumped Pr3+ lasers in the visible spectral range
Host Transition λlaser (nm) Pump Pthr /Ethr Pout /Eout η (%) Ref.
LiYF4 3P
1 →3 H5 522.0 457.9 nm 163 mW 144 mW 14.5 [11.106]
0 →3 H5 545.0 CW, Ar+ -ion laser 19 mW
0 →3 H6 607 110 mW 7 mW 1.2
0 →3 F2 639.5 8 mW 266 mW 25.9
0 →3 F3 697 105 mW 71 mW 10.3
0 →3 F4 720 98 mW 40 mW 7.2
0 →1 G4 907.4 280 mW 23 mW 7.3
LiYF4 3P
0 →3 F2 639.5 473 nm CW, SHG Nd:YAG 40 mW ≈ 100 mW 12 [11.107]
LiYF4 3P
0 →3 H6 613 476 nm CW, Ar+ − ionlaser 45 mW ≈ 400 fs (ML) [11.124]
LiYF4 3P
0 →3 F2 639.5 442 nm CW, GaN laser diode 5.5 mW ≈ 1.8 mW 24 [11.35]
LiYF4 3P
0 →3 F2 639.5 480 nm CW OPS 37 mW 72 mW 40 [11.110]
LiYF4 3P
0 →3 F2 639.5 Xe flashlamp (60 µs) ≈ 7J 87 mJ ≈ 0.3 [11.111]
LiGdF4 3P
1 →3 H5 522 468 nm 197 µJ 83 µJ 27 [11.112]
0 →3 H5 545 pulsed dye laser 49 µJ 2 µJ
0 →3 H6 604.5 144 µJ 32 µJ 37
0 →3 H6 607 50 µJ 2 µJ
0 →3 F2 639 4 µJ 98 µJ 32
0 →3 F3 697 73 µJ 31 µJ 26
0 →3 F4 720 6 µJ 80 µJ 35
0 →3 F2 642.5 457.9 nm CW, Ar+ -ion laser 15 mW [11.106]
0 →3 F2 642.5 465 nm pulsed dye laser [11.112]
YAlO3 3P
0 →3 F4 746.9 476.5 nm CW, Ar+ -ion laser 25 mW 130 mW 24.6 [11.146, 155]
628 Part C Coherent and Incoherent Light Sources

obtained for the Pr3 , Yb3+ codoped system, a so-called

25 sensitized photon avalanche, in YLiF4 (YLF) [11.156–
Emitting 158] and BaY2 F8 (BYF) [11.121]. The principle scheme
20 level of the Pr-Yb system is shown in Fig. 11.39 [11.159–
ë pump CR 163]. The excitation around 840 nm corresponds to
15 a very weak ground-state absorption process (very
ESA probable into a phonon tail of the Yb3+ absorption), fol-
Part C 11.2

10 Reservoir lowed by energy transfer (process r in Fig. 11.39) from

Yb3+ to Pr3+ (2 F5/2 , 3 H4 ) → (2 F7/2 , 1 G4 ). The ESA
5 process (1 G4 → (1 I6 , 3 P1 )), followed by fast phonon de-
GSA CR excitation [(1 I6 , 3 P1 ) → 3 P0 ] feeds the 3 P0 level (i. e.,
Ground state
0 the emitting level). The cross-relaxation process s
(3 P0 , 2 F7/2 ) → (1 G4 , 2 F5/2 ) followed again by the trans-
Fig. 11.37 Scheme of the photon-avalanche process (GSA: fer process r re-feeds the reservoir level. In this way,
ground-state absorption, ESA: excited-state absorption, at each step, an increase of the population in the 1 G4
CR: cross-relaxation) level is obtained and consequently a strong population
will be build up in the 3 P0 level (because of the strong
reason is that there exist special requirements for an effi- 1 G → (1 I , 3 P ) ESA process). The upconverted emis-
4 6 1
cient avalanche process; its efficiency depends strongly sion excitation spectrum and the excited-state absorption
on the transfer rates between the ions, the ground- spectrum are shown in Fig. 11.40 indicating the good
and excited-state absorption cross sections, the ionic match between these two spectra. The peak excited-
concentration, the emission branching ratios and the state absorption cross section of the 1 G4 → (1 I6 , 3 P1 )
lifetimes of the energy levels involved. In principle it transition is about 1.5 × 10−19 cm2 .
is possible to describe the photon-avalanche excitation The laser input–output curves for Pr,Yb:YLF and
mechanism for Pr,Yb-doped systems with rate equation Pr,Yb:BYF under Ti:sapphire pumping are shown in
systems [11.113, 114, 117, 118, 120]. However, due to Fig. 11.41; the results are summarized in Table 11.5.
its complexity, it is not possible to predict the overall The realization of diode pumping using commercially
efficiency solely from knowledge of the spectroscopic available infrared laser diodes is under investigation in
parameters. several research groups. However, at the moment ion-
In Table 11.5 an overview of photon-avalanche doped fibers as materials for upconversion and avalanche
pumped Pr3+ laser systems is given. Room-temperature pumped lasers are more efficient, because they allow
avalanche-pumped laser oscillation in bulk crystals was waveguiding of both the pump and the laser beam.

ncalc (cm3) I (arb.units) I (arb.units)

2 100

1017 Slope 8

Slope 2

1015 0.1
0 0
1000 0 3 6
P (mW) t (ms)
Fig. 11.38 Characteristics of the photon-avalanche excitation mechanisms. Left: pump-power dependence of the upcon-
verted emission intensity (experiment, open circles) and 3 P0 population (calculated, filled squares). Right: temporal
evolution of the upconverted emission intensity (solid line: experiment, squares: rate equation model). (After [11.120])
Lasers and Coherent Light Sources 11.2 Solid-State Lasers 629

Table 11.5 Photon-avalanche pumped crystalline CW Pr3+ lasers in the visible spectral range (T : temperature, η: slope
Dopant ions Host λlaser (nm) Transition λpump (nm) T Output (mW) η (%) Ref.
Pr3+ LaCl3 644 3 P →3 F 677 80–210 K 240 25 [11.164]
0 2
Pr3+ / Yb3+ YLiF4 522 3 P →3 H 830 RT 143 7.5 [11.156–158]
1 5
639.5 3 P →3 F 830 276 15
0 2
720 3 P →3 F 830
0 3

Part C 11.2
Pr3+ /Yb3+ BaY2 F8 607.5 3 P →3 H 822, 841 RT 98 30 [11.121]
0 6
638.5 3 P →3 F 822, 841 60 15
0 2
720.5 3 P →3 F 822 45 16
0 3

Table 11.6 Other rare-earth-doped solid-state upconversion lasers; for details see the overview in [11.114, 116] (ETU: energy
transfer upconversion, STPA: sequential two-photon absorption, CT: cooperative transfer, PA: photon avalanche, CW: continuous
wave, p: pulsed, SP: self pulsed, QS: Q-switched, ML: mode-locked, IR-fl: infrared flashlamp, RT: room temperature). ∗ First
observation of laser oscillation based on an upconversion process [11.169]
Dopant ions Host λlaser (nm) λpump (nm) Pump T (K) Output η (%) Ref.
Nd3+ LaF3 380 788 + 591 STPA ≤ 90 12 mW, CW 3 [11.165,
Nd3+ LaF3 380 578 STPA ≤ 20 4 mW, CW 0.7 [11.165,
Nd3+ LiYF4 730 603.6 PA ≤ 40 11 [11.165,
Nd3+ LiYF4 413 603.6 PA ≤ 40 10 µW, CW 4.3 [11.165,
165, 167]
Ho3+ / Yb3+ KYF4 551 960 ETU 77 CW [11.168]
Ho3+ / Yb3+ BaY2 F8 551.5 IR-fl ETU 77 [11.169]∗
Tm3+ YLiF4 450.2, 453 781 + 647.9 STPA 77 - RT 0.2 mJ, p 1.3 [11.170]
(pulsed lasers)
Tm3+ YLiF4 450.2 784.5 + 648 STPA ≤ 70 9 mW, SP 2 [11.171,
Tm3+ YLiF4 483 628 PA ≤ 160 30 mW 7.5 [11.171,
Tm3+ YLiF4 483 647.9 PA ≤ 160 30 mW, SP 8 [11.171,
Tm3+ Y3 Al5 O12 486 785 + 638 STPA ≤3 0.07 mW, SP 0.01 [11.173]
Tm3+ / Yb3+ BaY2 F8 455, 510, 649, 799 960 ETU RT [11.174]
Tm3+ / Yb3+ BaY2 F8 348 960 ETU 77 CW [11.175]
Tm3+ / Yb3+ BaY2 F8 348 960 ETU RT SP [11.175]
Tm3+ / Yb3+ BaY2 F8 649 1054 ETU RT 1 [11.176]
Tm3+ / Yb3+ YLiF4 810, 792 969 ETU RT 80 mW, CW [11.177]
Tm3+ / Yb3+ YLiF4 650 969 ETU RT 5 mW, CW 0.2 [11.177]

Table 11.7 Visible Er3+ lasers with direct pumping (p = pulsed operation)
Crystal Laser transition λlaser (µm) Pump T Output mode Ref.
3/2 → I15/2
Ba(Y, Er)2 F8 4S 4 0.5540 Xe lamp 77 p [11.178]
9/2 → 4I
13/2 0.5617 Xe lamp 77 p [11.169, 178]
9/2 → I15/2
4F 4 0.6709 Xe lamp 77 p [11.178]
9/2 → I11/2
2H 4 0.7037 Xe lamp 77 p [11.178]
Ba(Y, Yb)2 F8 4F
9/2 →4I
15/2 0.6700 Xe lamp 77 p [11.169]
9/2 → I15/2
BaYb2 F8 4F 4 0.6700 Xe lamp 110 p [11.169, 179]
3/2 → I11/2
LiYF4 4S 4 0.551 Dye laser 300 p [11.180]
630 Part C Coherent and Incoherent Light Sources

The energy-level schemes of Erbium-doped crystals

E (103 cm–1) such as LiYF4 and LiLuF4 [11.127, 128] offer the fea-
25 sibility of realizing an upconversion laser emitting in
P2 1 the green spectral region (4 S3/2 → 4 I15/2 transition). As
3 I 6 + 3P 1
P0 shown in Fig. 11.42 the upconversion excitation of the
upper laser level 4 S3/2 requires sequential two-photon
D2 absorption (STPA) either at 810 nm or 970 nm. With
Red emission
Part C 11.2

s ESA Green emission a pump wavelength of 810 nm, the ground-state absorp-
Blue emission tion (GSA) 4 I15/2 → 4 I9/2 is followed by nonradiative
G4 decay to the 4 I11/2 level. From there, population is taken
3 F4 to the 4 F5/2 level by excited-state absorption (ESA).
H6 F2 Finally, the 4 S3/2 level is populated by nonradiative
3 r r s GSA decay. With a pump wavelength around 970 nm, the up-
0 3H 4 2
F7/2 conversion excitation scheme of the upper laser level
3+ 3+ is very similar, however, it involves the GSA process
Pr Yb
15/2 → I11/2 and the ESA process I11/2 → F7/2 .
4I 4 4 4
Fig. 11.39 Scheme of the avalanche mechanism in Yb–Pr-doped Using a Ti:sapphire laser for excitation, vari-
systems ous rare-earth-doped fluoride crystals have shown
room-temperature CW upconversion lasing in the vis-
ó ESA –ó GSA –óSE (10–19 cm2) Iexcite (arb. units)
ible spectral range, e.g., Er3+ :LiYF4 [11.181] and
2 Er3+ :LiLuF4 [11.182]. Diode pumping of a green er-
bium-doped upconversion laser in Er3+ :LiLuF4 [11.183]
and in the mixed fluoride crystal Er3+ :LiKYF5 [11.184]
1.5 Excitation has been demonstrated. In the latter case, however,
laser operation could only be achieved under chopped
1 excitation with a duty cycle of 20%.
Table 11.8 presents an overview Er-based upcon-
1 version lasers in different crystals and at various
0.5 ESA
signal wavelengths.
Besides YAlO3 most of the interesting candidates
0 0 are fluorides, due to their relatively small phonon ener-
800 820 840 860 880
E (cm ) gies and correlated long lifetimes of intermediate states.
Rare-earth-doped LiLuF4 exhibits a larger splitting of
Fig. 11.40 Upconverted emission excitation spectrum and the manifolds by the crystal field compared to LiYF4
excited-state absorption spectrum of Pr3+ , Yb3+ :BaY2 F8 . and LiGdF4 , which tends to produce more-favorable
(After [11.120]) thermal occupation factors of both the upper and lower
laser levels [11.185, 186]. A reasonable overlap be-
Therefore high pump intensities over a long distance tween GSA and ESA enables two-step excitation to the
are possible, increasing the overall efficiency of the 4S 3+ using just a single pump wave-
3/2 level of Er
avalanche pumping mechanism, see the section on visi- length. The emission cross section σem at 552 nm (π
ble fiber lasers in Sect. 11.2.2. polarization) is σem = 3.5 × 10−21 cm2 . This value as
well as the GSA cross sections around 970 nm are
Er3+ lasers. The problem for the realization of directly slightly larger than the corresponding cross sections in
pumped visible Er3+ lasers is the lack of efficient pump Er3+ (1%):LiYF
 4 4 . The lifetime
 τ of the upper laser level
3/2 τ( S3/2 ) = 400 µs is slightly longer in LiLuF4
sources that have a good spectral match to the ab- 4S

sorption lines of the Er3+ ion. Therefore most visible than in LiYF4 .
Er3+ laser schemes have been realized by upconversion A multipass pumping setup has been used in order
pumping in the near-infrared spectral range, as shown to increase the absorbed pump power (Fig. 11.43). Both
in Fig. 11.42. Table 11.7 summarizes a few results of di- end faces of the 1.6 mm-long Er3+ (1%):LiLuF4 crys-
rect pumping of Er3+ obtained with Xe lamps and a dye tal have been prepared with directly coated dielectric
laser. mirrors [11.183]. One of these mirrors is highly trans-
Lasers and Coherent Light Sources 11.2 Solid-State Lasers 631

Output power (mW) Absorbed pump power (W) Pout (mW)

0 0.5 1 1.5 2
300 100
Pr (3 %), Yb (6 %): YLiF4 ë = 638.7 nm, T = 0.8 %
Pthr = 56 mW, ç = 15 %
250 ëlaser = 639.5 nm 80 ë = 607.5 nm, T = 6 %
ëlaser = 522 nm Pthr = 85 mW, ç = 31 %
ë = 720 nm, T = 2 %

Part C 11.2
Pthr = 161 mW, ç = 16 %


0 0
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 0 100 200 300 400 500
Incident pump power (W) Pabs (mW)

Fig. 11.41 Input–output curves of Pr,Yb:YLF [11.157, 158] (left) and Pr,Yb:BYF (right) under avalanche pumping with
a Ti:sapphire laser

mitting for the pump wavelength and highly reflecting is focused through the mirror hole into the crystal. With
for the laser wavelength, while the other mirror is highly respect to single-pass pumping significant improvement
transmitting for the laser wavelength and highly reflect- of the performance of the Er3+ :LiLuF4 upconversion
ing for the pump wavelength (Fig. 11.43, coatings L laser could be achieved under Ti:sapphire laser excita-
and P, respectively). An additional concave mirror with tion by using this setup. The maximum CW output power
a hole drilled slightly off axis is used to realize up to was 213 mW at an incident pump power of 2.6 W. The
four passes of the pump radiation through the active slope efficiencies with respect to incident and absorbed
volume of the laser crystal. The collimated pump beam pump power were 12% and 35%, respectively. When
replacing the Ti:sapphire laser by a 3 W diode, it was
possible to realize laser-diode-pumped CW operation of
Energy (103 cm–1) this erbium-doped upconversion laser at room temper-
F5/2 ature for the first time [11.183]. The maximum output
F7/2 power was 8 mW at an incident pump power of 2.5 W.
20 2
H11/2 The absorbed power under four-pass pumping was small
S3/2 and estimated to be between 10% and 12%. The slope
810 nm 970 nm efficiency with respect to the absorbed pump power was
15 F9/2 14%. Pumped with an optically pumped semiconductor
laser operating at 970 nm, continuous-wave laser oscil-
I9/2 lation at 550 nm with Er3+ :LiLuF4 has been achieved
I11/2 with an output power of 500 mW and a slope efficiency
of about 30% [11.127, 128, 182, 183].
552 nm
I13/2 Other 4f–4f divalent and trivalent rare-earth ion
5 lasers. Besides visible lasers based on 4f–4f transitions
810 nm 970 nm of Pr3+ and Er3+ several other lasers with 4f–4f tran-
sitions in the visible spectral region have been realized
I15/2 as shown in Table 11.6. When compared to Pr3+ and
Er3+ lasers, the laser performance of all listed systems
Fig. 11.42 Energy-level scheme of Er3+ :LiLuF4 [11.127, in Table 11.6 is worse. However, at least the upconver-
128] with two possible upconversion excitation routes of sion pumped Tm3+ and Ho3+ lasers seem to have some
sequential two-photon absorption (STPA) at 810 nm or potential for improvement of laser performance in the
970 nm [11.182, 183] and emission at 552 nm visible spectral region.
632 Part C Coherent and Incoherent Light Sources

Table 11.8 Visible Er3+ lasers (ETU: energy transfer upconversion, STPA: sequential two-photon absorption, CT: cooperative
transfer, PA: photon avalanche, CW: continuous wave, p: pulsed, SP: self-pulsed, QS: Q-switched, ML: mode-locked, IR-fl:
infrared flashlamp, OPS: optically pumped semiconductor, RT: room temperature)
Host λlaser (nm) λpump (nm) Pump T (K) Output η (%) Ref.
BaY2 F8 670 IR-fl ETU 77 [11.169]
Part C 11.2

YAlO3 550 792 + 840 STPA ≤ 77 0.8 mW, CW 0.2 [11.187]

YAlO3 550 785 + 840 STPA 34 8 mW, CW 1.8 [11.188, 189]
YAlO3 550 807 ETU 7 –63 166 mW, CW 13 [11.188]
YAlO3 550 791.3 STPA 7 –34 33 mW, CW 3.3 [11.188, 190]
+ looping
Y3 Al5 O12 561 647 + 810 STPA RT [11.191]
CaF2 855 1510 CT 77 64 mW, CW 18 [11.192]
LiYF4 551 797 or 791 (diode) STPA ≤ 90 0.2 [11.193–196]
LiYF4 551 791 (diode) ETU / STPA ≤ 90 0.1 mW, SP 0.03 [11.195]
LiYF4 551 802 (diode) ETU / STPA ≤ 77 2.3 mW, SP [11.197]
LiYF4 551 797 (diode) CT 48 100 mW, SP 5.5 [11.198]
LiYF4 702 1500 CT 10 360 µW, CW 0.06 [11.199]
LiYF4 551 810 STPA RT 40 mW, CW 1.4 [11.181]
LiYF4 551 974 STPA RT 45 mW, CW 2 [11.200, 201]
LiYF4 551 1500 ETU 80 10 mW, SP 2.9 [11.202]
LiYF4 561 1500 ETU 80 12 mW, SP 3.4 [11.202]
LiYF4 468 1500 ETU 80 0.7 mW, SP 0.2 [11.202]
LiYF4 561, 551, 544 797 ETU 49 467 mW, CW 11 [11.203]
LiYF4 551, 544 1550 CT 9 –95 34 mW, CW 8.5 [11.204, 205]
LiYF4 551, 544 1500 CT ≤ 95 0.6 µJ (50 ns), QS 2 mW, ML [11.206]
LiYF4 551 647 + 810 STPA RT 0.95 mJ, p 8.5 [11.191]
LiYF4 467 1550 CT 70 [11.116]
LiYF4 469.7 969.3 ETU ≤ 35 2 mW, CW 0.3 [11.207]
LiYF4 469.7 653.2 ETU ≤ 35 6 mW, CW 4.8 [11.207]
LiYF4 560.6 969.3 ETU ≤ 35 2 [11.207]
LiYF4 551 802 ETU ≤ 90 5 mW, SP 2 [11.165]
LiYF4 1230, 850 1530 ETU 110 [11.208]
LiLuF4 552 970 STPA RT 213 mW 35 [11.183]
968 (diode) 8 mW 14
LiLuF4 552 970 (OPS) STPA RT 500 mW (CW) 30 [11.209]
800 mW (DC: 50)
KYF4 562 647 + 810 STPA RT 0.95 mJ, p 0.5 [11.191]
LiKYF5 550 488 (Ar+ ) STPA RT 40 mW 18 [11.184]
651 (diode) 50 mW (DC: 20) 6
808 (diode) 150 mW (DC: 20) 12
BaYb2 F8 670 1540 + 1054 or 1054 ETU RT [11.210]
BaY2 F8 470, 554, 555 792.4 CT 10 [11.211]
BaY2 F8 552 792.4 CT 40 [11.211]
BaY2 F8 617, 669 792.4 CT 20 [11.211]
BaY2 F8 552, 470 ≈ 790 or ≈ 970 STPA 10 CW [11.212]
Lasers and Coherent Light Sources 11.2 Solid-State Lasers 633

Blue upconversion laser emission in Tm-doped crys-

tals can be achieved with STPA pumping. The energy
levels and upconversion pump mechanisms in Tm3+ are
illustrated in Fig. 11.44.
Figure 11.44a shows a pure STPA-pumped up- Ti:sapphire or
laser diode
conversion laser scheme, whereas in Fig. 11.44b, L P
upconversion pumping also requires an additional diode Lens Pump Output

Part C 11.2
cross-relaxation step between two Tm3+ ions. This mirror coupler
T = 4%
cross-relaxation process populates the intermediate 3 F4
state which is the starting level for the second step of the L: HR @ 552 nm, AR @ 970 nm
P: HR @ 970 nm, AR @ 552 nm
STPA process.
In sensitized upconversion lasers a donor ion D (the Fig. 11.43 Experimental setup for fourfold-pass pumping [11.183]
sensitizer) absorbs the pump light and transfers its exci- (HR: high reflection, AR: antireflection)
tation energy to an acceptor ion A. In many cases Yb3+
has been used as the donor D for trivalent rare-earth-ion tals, fluoride materials are preferred because of their
activators A. Through an upconversion energy transfer low phonon energies and generally larger bandgaps.
(ETU), two donor ions transfer their excitation energy The fiber material of choice is the fluorocirconate glass
successively to an acceptor. Finally the excitation en- ZBLAN (ZrF4 − BaF2 − LaF3 − AlF3 − NaF). Another
ergy of the donor is higher than the energy of an excited advantage of fibers compared to bulk crystals is that
Yb3+ ion. the transitions in glass are broadened and therefore the
Figure 11.45 shows a system with D = Yb3+ and possibility for resonant transitions or energy transfer is
A = Tm3+ . In this case a three-step STPA process is enhanced. An overview of visible fluoride fibers is given
also possible, yielding a variety of laser transitions in in [11.214].
the visible region. Nearly all rare-earth-ion-doped fluoride fiber lasers
Figure 11.46 illustrates the STPA and ETU upcon- can be pumped in the 0.63–1.2 µm region and
version mechanisms in Ho3+ and in the donor–acceptor thus take advantage of the mature semiconductor
system Yb3+ –Ho3+ . Laser emission can be gener- technology, e.g., AlGaInP (0.63–0.69 µm), GaAlAs
ated near 750 nm and 550 nm, originating from the (0.78–0.88 µm) and InGaAs (0.90–1.2 µm) and of
metastable 5 S2 , 3 F4 states. the highly developed solid-state laser technology, e.g.,
It can be seen in Table 11.6 that, besides STPA and
ETU pumping, photon avalanche (PA) pumping has also
a) Energy (103 cm–1) b) Energy (103 cm–1)
been used in a few cases (Nd3+ and Tm3+ ). 30 30
In Table 11.9 other rare-earth-ion lasers in the visible 1
D4 1
spectral range based on 4f–4f transitions are listed. The
data are taken from [11.213]. 25 649 nm 25
G4 1
Visible fiber lasers 20 20
A different and very promising approach to realize ef-
450 nm
ficient upconversion room-temperature laser oscillation 638 nm 486 nm
is the use of rare-earth-ion-doped fibers. The geome- 15 15
3 3
try of the fiber provides waveguiding of both the pump H4 H4
radiation and the stimulated emission, thus long inter- 10 10
action lengths can be realized, yielding high intensities 781 nm
over a long distance, a critical requirement for upcon- F4 3
version lasers. This is one advantage of the fiber concept 5 5
785 nm
(for a detailed description of the fiber concept, see
the description of Yb fiber lasers in Sect. 11.2.2) com- 3 3
0 H6 0 H6
pared to bulk materials. Another requirement for visible
upconversion lasers is the existence of metastable inter- Fig. 11.44a,b Upconversion pump mechanisms for Tm3+ . (a) Se-
mediate levels to act as initial levels for an excited-state quential two-photon absorption, (b) sequential two-photon absorp-
absorption or an energy transfer process. Like in crys- tion with additional cross-relaxation (dashed line)
634 Part C Coherent and Incoherent Light Sources

Table 11.9 Visible and UV lasers based on divalent and trivalent rare-earth ions
Dopant ions Host Transition λlaser (nm) T (K) Ref.
Sm3+ 5/2 → H7/2
TbF3 4G 6 593.2 116 [11.215]
Sm2+ SrF2 5 D →7 F 696.9 4.2 [11.216]
0 1
Eu3+ Y2 O3 5 D →7 F 611.3 220 [11.217]
0 2
Eu3+ YVO4 5 D →7 F 619.3 90 [11.218]
0 2
Gd3+ 7/2 → S7/2
6P 8
Part C 11.2

Y3 Al5 O12 314.5 300 [11.219]

Tb3+ LiYF4 5 D →7 F 544.5 300 [11.220]
4 5
Ho3+ CaF2 5 S →5 I 551.2 77 [11.221]
2 8
Tm2+ 5/2 → F7/2 < 27
CaF2 2F 2 1116 [11.97, 98]
Ag+ KI, RbBr, CsBr 335 5 [11.222]

Nd3+ and Yb3+ lasers in the near-infrared spectral levels, which are thermally coupled. In Pr3+ :ZBLAN,
region. the lifetime of these coupled multiplets is in the range
40–50 µs [11.224,225]. Recently, Richter et al. obtained
Visible Pr3+ fiber lasers. As in crystals, the
praseodymium ion is very attractive for visible fiber
lasers because of its energy-level scheme (see Fig. 11.33) a) Energy (103 cm–1)
25 5
and the possibility of upconversion pumping by two- G5
step absorption, photon avalanche or energy transfer
processes. Laser oscillation at room temperature has 20 F3
been achieved in the red, orange, green and blue spec- S 2, 5F 4
647 nm
tral ranges. Some of these transitions have even been 5
15 F5
operated simultaneously [11.223]. Laser oscillation at
550 nm
room temperature originates from the 3 P0 , 3 P1 and 1 I6 753 nm
10 647 nm
3 I6
P0 P1 5 5
647 nm
457 – 458 nm 5
0 I8
b) Energy (103 cm–1)
512 nm
456 nm 5
S 2, 5F 4
799 nm 5
15 F5
649 nm
3 5
3 F2 I4
3 5
F4 2 I5
1480 nm
10 F5/2
F5/2 5
H4 960 nm 5 960 nm
482 nm
552 nm
3 2
H6 F7/2
3+ 3+
Tm Yb 0 2
F7/2 5
3+ 3+
Yb Ho
Fig. 11.45 Sensitized upconversion in Yb3+ ,Tm3+ -doped
BaY2 F8 after Trash and Johnson [11.174] with two and Fig. 11.46a,b STPA (a) and ETU (b) pumping of Ho3+
three steps in the STPA process upconversion lasers
Lasers and Coherent Light Sources 11.2 Solid-State Lasers 635

Table 11.10 Visible Pr3+ -doped ZBLAN fiber lasers (ESA: excited-state absorption (i. e., sequential two-step absorption), ETU:
energy transfer upconversion, PA: photon avalanche, RT: room temperature)
Dopant ions λlaser (nm) Transition λpump (nm) Pump T (K) Output η (%) Ref.
Pr3+ 635 3P
0 →3 F2 1010 + 835 ESA RT 180 mW 10 [11.227]
605 3P
0 →3 H6 1010 + 835 ESA RT 30 mW 3.3
3P →3 H5

Part C 11.2
520 1 1010 + 835 ESA RT 1 mW
491 3P
0 →3 H4 1010 + 835 ESA RT 1 mW
Pr3+ 635 3P
0 →3 F2 1020 + 840 ESA RT 54 mW 14 [11.228]
520 3P
1 →3 H5 1020 + 840 ESA RT 20 mW 5
491 3P
0 →3 H4 1020 + 840 ESA RT 7 mW 1.5
Pr3+ , Yb3+ 635 3P
0 →3 F2 849 ETU RT 20 mW [11.229]
Pr3+ , Yb3+ 635 3P
0 →3 F2 1016 diode ETU RT 6.2 mW 3.2 [11.230]
+ 833 diode
532 3 P →3 H ETU RT 0.7 mW 0.3
1 5
Pr3+ , Yb3+ 635 3 P →3 F 860 diode ETU RT 4 mW 2.2 [11.231]
0 2
602 3 P →3 H 860 diode ETU 0.2 mW
0 6
Pr3+ , Yb3+ 520 + 490 3 P →3 H 856 diode RT 1.4 mW [11.223]
1 5
+3 P0 →3 H4
Pr3+ , Yb3+ 492 3 P →3 H 1017 diode RT 1.2 mW 8.5 [11.232]
0 4
+ 835 diode
Pr3+ , Yb3+ 635–637 3 P →3 F 780–880 PA RT 300 mW 16.8 [11.161]
0 2
605–622 3 P →3 H 780–880 PA RT 45 mW 4.6
0 6
517–540 3 P →3 H 780–880 PA RT 20 mW 5
1 5
491–493 3 P →3 H 780–880 PA RT 4 mW 1.2
0 4
Pr3+ , Yb3+ 635 3 P →3 F 850 PA RT 1020 mW 19 [11.162]
0 2
Pr3+ , Yb3+ 635 3 P →3 F 850 diode PA RT 440 mW 17 [11.233]
0 2
520 3 P →3 H 850 diode PA RT 100 mW ≈4
1 5
Pr3+ , Yb3+ 635 3 P →3 F 850 diode PA RT 2W 45 [11.234, 235]
0 2
520 3 P →3 H 850 diode PA RT 0.3 W 17
1 5
Pr3+ , Yb3+ 491 3 P →3 H 850 PA RT 165 mW 12.1 [11.236]
0 4
491 + 520 3 P →3 H 850 PA RT 230 mW 14.3
0 4
+3 P1 →3 H5
491 3 P →3 H 840 diode PA RT 8 mW ≈6
0 4
Pr3+ , Yb3+ 635 3 P →3 F 838 diode PA RT ML: 550 ps [11.237]
0 2
(239 MHz)
Pr3+ , Yb3+ 603 (tunable) 3P
0 →3 H6 840, Ti:Sapphire PA RT 55 mW 19 [11.238]
634 3P
0 →3 F2 100 mW
Pr3+ 635 3P
0 →3 F2 480, diode Direct RT 94 mW 41.5 [11.226]

laser oscillation of a Pr3+ -doped ZBLAN fiber under di- green and blue wavelength regions are about one order
rect pumping with a blue semiconductor laser [11.226]. of magnitude smaller.
Output powers of 94 mW and a slope efficiency of 41.5% Generally, a double-clad fiber can be used to couple
at 635 nm were obtained. highly divergent pump radiation of near-infrared high-
In Table 11.10 the results to date with Pr3+ -doped power laser diodes into the large-numerical-aperture
ZBLAN fibers are summarized. The best results ob- inner cladding and propagate it along the fiber axis.
tained thus far, at the most efficient wavelength of On its way down the fiber, the pump radiation is gradu-
635 nm, are output powers up to 2 W and slope effi- ally absorbed in the embedded small-numerical-aperture
ciencies up to 45% [11.234]. The efficiencies in the active core. Since the number of transverse radiation
636 Part C Coherent and Incoherent Light Sources

be best provided by diffraction-limited pump radia-

tion focused onto the fiber end face and guided in the
rare-earth-ion-doped active core.
Ti3+: Al2O3 lasers For example, Fig. 11.47 shows a demonstration of
(1, 2) high-power upconversion laser operation under pump-
M2 ing with two dichroic coupled Ti3+ :Al2 O3 lasers
C2 tuned to pumping wavelengths near 850 nm [11.162].
Part C 11.2

1 The maximum upconversion-laser output power

Fiber was 1020 mW at an incident near-infrared total pump
M1 C1
power of 5.51 W (Fig. 11.48). The overall slope ef-
Fig. 11.47 Experimental setup of the Pr3+ ,Yb3+ -doped up- ficiency with respect to the incident pump power
conversion ZBLAN fiber laser [11.162]. M1 denotes the was 19% [11.162].
dichroic mirror, C1 an aspheric lens, M2 the dielectric Also, near-infrared high-power diode-laser bars
resonator mirror, and C2 a collimator with beam-shaping optics have been used to pump
a Pr3+ ,Yb3+ -doped ZBLAN fiber with the common
modes supported in a cylindrical fiber core depends only single-clad structure and a large-area multimode active
on the wavelength of the radiation, the core diameter, core. In this case, 4.5 W of pump power were launched
and its numerical aperture, the geometry and mater- into the fiber core, generating red output powers in ex-
ial of the active fiber core can be chosen to support cess of 2 W at 635 nm [11.234]. In the blue spectral
just one or a few transverse modes of the radiation range, a Pr3+ ,Yb3+ -doped ZBLAN-based upconver-
generated in the active core by near-infrared pumping. sion fiber laser has been demonstrated at an emission
Thus, an upconversion double-clad fiber with a suit- wavelength of 491 nm (3 P0 → 3 H4 transition of Pr3+ ).
ably chosen rare-earth-ion-doped active core can be The pump source was a single-mode diode laser emit-
used to convert the highly multimode radiation of high- ting at a wavelength of 840 nm. The maximum blue
power near-infrared laser-diode arrays into single-mode output power was 8 mW at an incident pump power
or few-mode visible laser emission with excellent beam of 200 mW [11.236].
quality. The best results in terms of upconversion laser
output power, however, have been achieved when the Other visible fiber lasers. Laser oscillation in the visible
pump radiation of a high-beam-quality laser source was spectral range has also been obtained with other rare-
launched directly into the active core of the described earth ions in ZBLAN. In Table 11.11 an overview of
fiber. This is due to the high pump intensities required these laser systems is given. A detailed description of
locally for photon-avalanche upconversion, which can these systems and their prospects is given in [11.214].

11.2.3 Near-Infrared Rare Earth Lasers

Laser output power Pout (W)

1 Ti:sapphire 1 @ ë = 850 nm Nd lasers

Ti:sapphire 1 @ ë = 852 nm
most intensively investigated class of solid-state lasers
plus Ti:sapphire 2 @ ë = 826 nm is based on Nd3+ -ion-doped materials. The Nd3+ -ion
offers various groups of laser lines in the near-IR spectral

Energy-level scheme. Figure 11.49 shows transitions

0.4 from the 4 F3/2 upper laser level into the 4 I13/2 , 4 I11/2 ,
Pout, max = 1020 mW and 4 I9/2 manifolds. The specific absorption and emis-
0.2 Pthr = 202 mW sion wavelengths depend on the crystal field, which
çinc = 19 % influences the splitting within a manifold and between
0 different manifolds. As shown in Fig. 11.49 the splitting
0 0.5 1 1.5 2 2.5 3 3.5 4 4.5 5 5.5
Incident pump power Pin (W)
between the 4 I (and also between 4 F) manifolds is dom-
inated by L S coupling of the 4f electrons and is only
Fig. 11.48 Input–output characteristics of the Pr3+ ,Yb3+ -doped up- affected to second order by covalency effects caused by
conversion ZBLAN fiber laser [11.162] the crystal field. The energetic splitting between the 4 F
Lasers and Coherent Light Sources 11.2 Solid-State Lasers 637

Table 11.11 Overview of room temperature rare earth ion doped upconversion fiber lasers. (in): incident, (l) launched,
(abs) absorbed
Active ion λlaser (nm) Transition λpump (nm) Pout (mW) η (%) Ref.
3/2 → I11/2
Nd 381 4D 4 590 0.076 0.25 (l) [11.239]
Nd 412 2P
3/2 →4I
11/2 590 0.470 1.7 (l) [11.240]
Tm 455 1 D →3 F 645 + 1064 3 1.5 [11.241]
2 4
1 G →3 H

Part C 11.2
Tm 480 4 4 1130 33 34.6 (abs) [11.242]
1123 230 25 (in) [11.243]
680 + ≈ 1100 14.8 18.9 (abs) [11.244–249]
Tm / Yb 480 1G
4 →3 H4 1070 375 [11.250]
1065 106 6.6 (in) [11.251]
1120, 1140 116 15 [11.252]
Dy 478 4F
9/2 → H15/2
6 457 (Ar+ ) 2.3 0.9 [11.253]
9/2 → H13/2
575 4F 6 10 1.5
3/2 → I15/2
Er 540 4S 4 801 23 16 [11.254, 255]
3/2 → I15/2
Er 540 4S 4 970 50 51 [11.256–258]
Ho 544 / 549 5 F →5 I / 5 S →5 I8 ≈ 640 40 22.4 (l) [11.259–263]
4 8 2
Ho 753 647 0.54 3.3 [11.259]
Tm 810 1064 1200 37 [11.264]

and 4 I levels is dominated by Coulomb interaction of the Because of the good spectral match, the total pump effi-
4f electrons, which is also only effected to second or- ciency of diode pumping is much higher than for lamp
der by covalency effects of the crystal field. Therefore, pumping. In addition the transfer efficiency of pump
the transition wavelengths of Nd-doped crystals vary in light into the crystal is much better in the case of diode
a certain range near the values given for Nd:Y3 Al5 O12 pumping, so that a total efficiency of 10% to 30% for
(Nd:YAG) in Fig. 11.49. The strongest and most com- the conversion of electrical power into laser power is
monly used laser transition 4 F3/2 → 4 I11/2 emits near achievable.
1060 nm (Fig. 11.49).
Figures 11.50 and 11.51 show as an example the ab-
sorption and emission spectra of Nd:YAG, measured at Energy (103 cm–1)
300 K. The strongest absorption is located near 808 nm
15 4
and the strongest laser transition at 1064 nm. 4
Longitudinal and transversal diode pumping. Nd 4
lasers are usually pumped by lamps or diode lasers.
Splitting between 4F
The first generation of Nd-doped solid-state lasers were 10 1444 nm and 4I levels by
pumped with CW krypton or pulsed xenon lamps. 1320 nm Coulomb interaction
808 nm 1064 nm
These lamps have high electrical-to-optical efficiencies 946 nm
of about 70% and are available at reasonable costs. Un- 938.5 nm
fortunately, the overlap of their emission spectra with 4
I 15/2
the narrow 4f–4f absorption spectra of Nd-doped solid- 5 Splitting of 4I (4F)
state laser materials is usually poor; thus the electrical to I 13/2 multipletts by
LS coupling
optical pump efficiency is low – typically a few percent.
In modern Nd lasers, diode lasers at 808 nm are em- I11/2
ployed as pump sources. Laser diodes typically have Stark splitting by
I 9/2 symmetry and strength
efficiencies of about 50% and offer several advantages 0 of crystal field
over lamp pumping. Diodes emit spectrally narrow-band
radiation (≈ 1–5 nm). Therefore, a much better overlap Fig. 11.49 Level scheme, pump and laser transitions of Nd3+ in
with the 4f–4f absorption spectra of Nd can be achieved. YAG
638 Part C Coherent and Incoherent Light Sources

area and their relatively large refractive index, laser

áabs (cm–1) óabs (10–20 cm2)
diode beams have a large divergence. Their beams also
14 10 possess large beam-quality differences in the transversal
and sagittal directions since the active area dimensions
12 Nd (1 %): YAG are usually ≈ 1 µm × 100 µm and confinement is given
çion = 1.39 × 1020 cm–3 8 only in one dimension. For power scaling, bars or ar-
10 rays of diodes must be used. This can lead to output
Part C 11.2

powers of up to several tens of watts. Unfortunately,
8 combination of many single diode stripes also broad-
ens the emission spectrum, while the beam quality of
4 the combined radiation is further decreased. So, sophis-
ticated pump optics such as beam shaping must often be
employed [11.265].
2 Several pump geometries can be used with diode
laser excitation. The common geometry to pump lasers,
0 0 which are capable of generating several watts of out-
780 800 820 840 860 880 900
Wavelength ë (nm) put power with excellent beam quality, is end pumping
(Fig. 11.52). In this geometry, pump radiation is fo-
Fig. 11.50 Absorption spectrum of Nd(1%):YAG and absorption cused into the laser crystal along the laser resonator
cross sections axis. A very good overlap of pump and laser modes can
be provided. Gain media of small volume and with short
The selective spectral pumping with diodes also absorption lengths can be used, and high population in-
leads to reduced heat deposition in the laser crystal with versions at low pump power levels can be achieved.
reduced thermal lensing effects, giving rise to improved Because most of the pump power is deposited within the
beam quality. Diffraction-limited beams can be realized volume of the TEM00 laser mode, higher-order modes
easier. usually cannot oscillate. Excellent beam quality is there-
However, there are also disadvantages of diode fore inherent. However, scaling of end-pumped lasers to
lasers. Because of their small active laser cross-sectional output powers above 20 W is difficult to achieve due to

óem (10–20 cm2)


4 4 4 4 4 4
F 3/2 I 9/2 F 3/2 I11/2 F3/2 I13/2




860 880 900 920 940 1050 1060 1070 1080 1350 1400 1450
Wavelength ë (nm)

Fig. 11.51 Emission cross section spectra of Nd:YAG

Lasers and Coherent Light Sources 11.2 Solid-State Lasers 639

possible thermally induced fracture of the laser crystal

Pump Laser resonator
within the small volume of pump absorption. diode laser
An alternative diode pumping method is side pump-
ing (Fig. 11.53, [11.266]). In this approach, the pumping
geometry is principally similar to the arrangement for
lamp pumping. One or several linear pump diode bars
are positioned around the side surface of the laser crystal.

Part C 11.2
Pump radiation is then usually imaged into the crystal
perpendicular to the laser resonator axis. The crystal is
relatively homogeneously pumped throughout its total Optics
volume, and a smaller excitation density is usually real-
ized than in diode laser end pumped systems. Because of Fig. 11.52 Diode end-pumping scheme
the use of larger gain media, however, more energy can
be deposited into the laser crystal and therefore higher ics, which have been developed with very good optical
output powers can be achieved. Since a larger laser mode quality and low scattering losses. So, the efficiency of
is present inside the crystal, higher-order modes also ceramic lasers can be as high as for crystals.
usually oscillate in these lasers. Therefore beam quality If not specified otherwise, the references for the laser
is often rather low. materials can be found in [11.213].
Nd-doped fiber lasers can also be operated in specific
configurations, see for example [11.267–278], and are Yb lasers
used in many applications. For high-power laser gener- Coherent oscillation of Yb3+ was first observed in YAG
ation, double-clad fibers are usually used. Basic aspects at 77 K [11.279]. In 1991 the first realization of a diode-
are described below in this chapter (page 650/651). pumped Yb:YAG laser [11.280] at room temperature
initialized an intensive renaissance of research on Yb-
The most important Nd lasers. The most important doped laser materials for laser diode pumping at 300 K.
Nd-doped laser materials feature relatively high emis- Yb3+ -doped solid-state lasers feature several important
sion cross sections, a relatively long upper-state lifetime advantages compared with other rare-earth lasers:
of Nd3+ , a high damage threshold, high mechanical 1. Yb3+ ions have only two states, the ground state
and chemical stability, good thermal conductivity and 2F 2
7/2 and the excited state F5/2 , which are separated
very good optical quality, see Table 11.12. Many host by an energy of about 10 000 cm−1 . Thus, there is
crystals have been investigated, including yttrium alu- no excited-state absorption of the pump and laser
minium garnet (YAG), yttrium aluminium perovskite radiation (Fig. 11.54).
(YAP or YALO), yttrium lithium fluoride (YLF) and 2. The quantum efficiency of Yb3+ is close to unity.
yttrium vanadate (YVO). Very efficient and compact
diode-pumped lasers with slope efficiencies of over
60% have been demonstrated in many Nd-doped laser
Fiber holder Reflector
HR 808 nm
Nd:YAG is still regarded as the most important solid-
state laser. Due to their very good optical and mechanical
properties, diode-pumped Nd:YAG lasers are robust and
reliable. They are in use in many applications. Within Laser rod
the last few years Nd:YAG have also become available Reflector d f–f
as ceramics with high optical quality. Flow tube
The vanadates Nd:YVO and Nd:GVO emit polarized
radiation and exhibit large cross sections and gain.

Nd laser wavelength and materials. A variety of Nd 16 fibers

lasers have been reported so far. Tables 11.13, 14, 15 list (CW 10W fiber-coupled
diode lasers, Æ 800 µm, NA 0.2) 32 mm
laser materials and their laser wavelengths which have
been observed at 300 K on the transitions 4 F3/2 → 4 I9/2 , Fig. 11.53 Diode side (transversal) pumping scheme
4I 4
11/2 and I13/2 . The tables also list Nd-doped ceram- [11.266]
640 Part C Coherent and Incoherent Light Sources

Table 11.12 Important host materials for Nd3+ [11.285]

Chemical formula Y3 Al5 O12 YAlO3 YVO4 GdVO4 YLiF4
Lattice symmetry Cubic Orthorhombic Tetragonal Tetragonal Tetragonal
Space group 1a3d Pnma 141 /amd 141 /amd 141 /a
Lattice constant (Å) 12.00 a = 5.33 a = 7.120 a = 7.123 a = 5.18
b = 7.37 c = 6.289 b = 6.291 c = 10.74
Part C 11.2

c = 5.18
Density of Nd sites (1% doping) 1.39 1.96 1.255 1.25 1.39
Heat conductivity (Wm−1 K−1 ) 11–13 11 ∼ 5 –12 a ∼ 8 –12 a 6
dn i / dT (10−6 K−1 ) 9.9 14.5(a) 8.5(a) −0.9(a)
9.7(b) 3.0(c) −2.9(c)
dL/ dT (10−6 K−1 ) 8.2 4.4(a) 3.1(a) 1.6(a) 13(a)
10.8(b) 7.2(c) 7.3(c) 8(c)
Max. phonon energy (cm−1 ) 700 550 850 490
Refractive indices n = 1.822 n a = 1.9260 n o = 1.958 n o = 1.972 n o = 1.454
n b = 1.9118 n e = 1.2168 n e = 1.2192 n e = 1.477
n c = 1.9346
τ(4 F3/2 ) (µs) 250 160 97 100 500
λabs (nm) 808 813 (E  a) 808 808 792
σabs (10−20 cm2 ) 7.9 7.2 (E  a) 60 (π) 54 (π) 14 (π)
12 (σ) 12(σ) 1.2(σ)
λlaser (4 I11/2 ) (nm) 1064 1080 (E  a) 1064 1063 1047 (π)
1054 (σ)
σem (4 I11/2 ) (10−20 cm2 ) 29 25 (E  a) 123 (π) 125 (π) 1.5 (π)
52 (σ) 61 (σ) 1.5 (σ)
∆λ(4 I11/2 ) (nm) 0.8 2.5 (E  a) 1.0 (π) 1.2 (π) 1.5 (π)
1.5 (σ) 1.3 (σ) 1.5( σ)
λlaser (4 I9/2 ) (nm) 946 930 914 (π) 912 (π) 904 (π)
915 (σ) 912 (σ) 909 (σ)
σem (4 I9/2 ) (10−20 cm2 ) 3.9 4.1 (E  a) 4.8 (π) 6.6 (π) 1.2 (π)
4.3(σ) 5.6 (σ) 1.3 (σ)
∆λ (nm) 1.0 2.5 (E  a) 2.8 (π) 2.5 (π) 3.0(π)
3.4 (σ) 3.3 (σ) 3.0 (σ)
a The published data of heat conductivities of the vanadates YVO and GVO differ considerably [11.281–284]

3. Due to the small Stokes shift and the related small to a few milliseconds, which implies greater en-
quantum defect (typically 500 cm−1 ) heat generation ergy storage efficiency, especially for Q-switched
in the lasing process of Yb3+ is small and makes it operation with diode pumping.
a suitable ion for high-average-power lasers.
4. The small ionic radius of Yb3+ compared to that One disadvantage of Yb3+ -doped lasers is that they
of other rare-earth ions favors its incorporation into operate in a quasi-three-level scheme with temperature-
Y-based host crystals such as YAG, allowing higher dependent reabsorption at the laser wavelength. This
dopant concentration and thus shorter gain elements leads to an increased threshold compared to a four-level
such as discs. scheme, because the pump must bleach the reabsorption
5. Yb3+ ions exhibit a relatively broad emission band losses (see the section on basic spectroscopic properties
which leads to tunability and the generation of ultra- in Sect. 11.2.1).
short pulses. Figures 11.55 and 11.56 show as an example
6. The radiative lifetime of the laser level ranges in dif- the absorption and emission cross section spectra of
ferent crystals from a few hundred microseconds Yb:YAG [11.286]. When pumped near the absorption
Lasers and Coherent Light Sources 11.2 Solid-State Lasers 641

Table 11.13 Laser wavelengths of the 4 F3/2 → 4 I9/2 transi- Table 11.14 Laser wavelengths of the 4 F3/2 → 4 I11/2 tran-
tion at 300 K [11.213] sition at 300 K [11.213]
Wavelength (nm) Material Wavelength Material
0.8910 Y3 Al5 O12 0.97 (transition RbPb2 Br5 [11.309]
5/2 , H9/2 → I11/2 )
4F 2 4
0.8999 Y3 Al3 O12
0.901 Sr1−x Lax Mgx Al12−x O19 [11.287] 1.0369 CaF2 − SrF2

Part C 11.2
0.9106 Ba3 LaNb3 O12 1.0370 CaF2
0.910 LiLuF4 [11.285] 1.0370–1.0395 SrF2
0.912 Y2 SiO5 1.04065–1.0410 LaF3
0.912 YVO4 [11.288] 1.0410 CeF3
0.912 GdVO4 [11.289–291] 1.0412 KYF4
0.914 YVO4 [11.292] 1.042– 1.075 Na0.4 Y0.6 F2.2
0.916 LuVO4 [11.293, 294] 1.0445 SrF2
0.930 YAlO3 [11.213, 295] 1.046– 1.064 LiNdP4 O12
0.9312 YAlO3 1.0461 CaF2 − YF3
0.936 Gd3 Sc2 Ga3 O12 1.0461–1.0468 CaF2
0.9385 Y3 Al5 O12 1.047 LiGdF4
≈ 0.94 Y3 Al5 O12 [11.296] 1.047 LiNdP4 O12
0.941 CaY2 Mg2 Ge3 O12 1.047 LiYF4
0.9458–0.9464 Y3 Al5 O12 [11.297] 1.047– 1.078 NdP5 O14
0.946 Y3 Al5 O12 [11.213, 298–306] 1.0471 LiYF4
0.946 Y3 Al5 O12 ceramic [11.307] 1.0472 LiLuF4
0.9660 YAlO3 1.0475 LaBGeO5
0.966 Sc2 O3 [11.308] 1.0477 Li(Nd, La)P4 O12
1.0477 Li(Nd, Gd)P4 O12
1.048 Li(Bi, Nd)P4 O12
peaks at 940 nm or 970 nm, the Stokes shift to the lasing
1.048 Li(Nd, La)P4 O12
wavelength at 1030 nm corresponds to less than 10%,
1.048 Li(Nd, Gd)P4 O12
which allows in principle a slope efficiency of more
than 90%. 1.048 K5 (Nd, Ce)Li2 F10
1.0481 LiKYF5
Yb3+ thin-disc lasers. In connection with the power 1.0482 LaBGeO5
scaling of diode-pumped Yb lasers Giesen et al. [11.310] 1.0482 NaLa(MoO4 )2
invented the thin-disc laser concept as a pump and 1.0486 LaF3 − SrF2
resonator design for high-power lasers (Fig. 11.57). 1.049– 1.077 NaNdP4 O12
The active medium is a thin circular disc, which is 1.0491 SrAl12 O19
coated for both the pump and laser wavelengths with 1.0493 Sr2 Y5 Fl9
a highly reflecting (HR) dielectric mirror on the rear 1.0495 BaY2 F8
side and with an antireflection coating on the front side. 1.0495 GdF3 − CaF2
The disc is then bonded with the rear HR side to a heat 1.0497 SrAl2 O4
sink. The resonator is formed by the coated crystal and 1.0498 Ca2 Y5 F19
an output coupler. The pump light is provided by fiber- 1.0498 SrAl12 O19
coupled laser diodes which are focused onto the crystal. 1.05 KNdP4 O12
Since the thin crystal disc only absorbs a small fraction 1.05 NdP5 O14
of the pump light during one pass through the crystal, the 1.05 LaP5 O14
pump light is reflected back into the disc several times 1.05 LiLuF4
by a parabolic mirror and the folding prism [11.311]. Up
1.0500 CaF2 − ScF3
to a total of 32 pump light passes may be used.
1.0505 (Nd, La)P5 O14
Due to the geometrical setup a nearly one-
1.0505 5NaF − 9YF3
dimensional thermal gradient along the laser axis can
642 Part C Coherent and Incoherent Light Sources

Table 11.14 (continued) Table 11.14 (continued)

Wavelength Material Wavelength Material
1.0506 5NaF − 9YF3 1.0543 BaF2 − CeF3
1.0507 CdF2 − ScF3 1.0543 SrF2 − ScF3
1.051 NaNdP4 O12 1.05436 Ba2 MgGe2 O7
1.051 YP5 Ol4 1.05437 Ba2 ZnGe2 O7
Part C 11.2

1.051 (La, Nd)P5 O14 1.0547 LaMgAl11 O19

1.051 CeP5 O14 1.05499 CsY2 F7
1.051 GdP5 O14 1.055 Na3 Nd(PO4 )2
1.051 NdP5 O14 1.055 K3 (La, Nd)(PO4 )2
1.0511 (Nd, La)P5 O14 1.055 Na3 (La, Nd)(PO4 )2
1.0512 NdP5 O14 1.0551 Pb5 (PO4 )3 F
1.0512 (Nd, La)P5 O14 1.0552 LaMgAl11 O19
1.0512 (Y, Nd)P5 O14 1.0554 LiNdP4 O12
1.0513 NdP5 O14 1.0554 KY3 F10
1.0515 YP5 O14 1.0555 CsGd2 F7
1.0515 NdP5 O14 1.0555 Ba5 (PO4 )3 F
1.052 (Nd, La)P5 O14 1.0556 SrF2 − LuF3
1.052 KNdP4 O12 1.0560 SrF2 − LuF3
1.052 K5 NdLi2 F10 1.0566 La2 Si2 O7
1.052 Y3 Al5 O12 1.0567 SrF2 YF3
1.0521 BaF2 − YF3 1.0569 NdGaGe2 O7
1.0521 NdP5 O14 1.0570 GdGaGe2 O7
1.0521 YF3 1.0572 LaSr2 Ga11 O20
1.0525 YP5 O14 1.0573 CaMoO4
1.0526 BaF2 − GdF3 1.0575 CsLa(WO4 )2
1.0528 SrF2 − GdF3 1.0576 SrAl4 O7
1.0529 NdP5 O14 1.0576 SrMoO4
1.053 LiYF4 1.0576 La2 Si2 O7
1.053 (La, Nd)P5 O14 1.058 Gd3 Sc2 Ga3 O12
1.053–1.062 Ca3 (Nb, Ga)2 Ga3 O12 1.0582 Ca3 Ga4 O9
1.0530 LiYF4 1.0582–1.0597 CaWO4
1.0530 BaY2 F8 1.0583 Y3 Sc2 Ga3 O12
1.0530 CaF2 − LuF3 1.0584 Y3 Sc2 Ga3 O12 : Cr
1.0530–1.059 LaMgAl11 O19 1.0584 Y3 Sc2 Ga3 O12
1.0531 LiLuF4 1.0584 CaY2 Mg2 Ge3 O12
1.0532 LiKYF5 1.0585 YAlO3
1.0534–1.0563 BaF2 − LaF3 1.0585 LiLa(MoO4 )2
1.0535 Lu3 Al5 O12 1.0585 Sr5 (PO4 )3 F
1.0535–1.0547 CaF2 − SrF2 − BaF2 − YF3 − LaF3 1.0585 CaF2 − SrF2 − BaF2 − YF3 − LaF3
1.0537 BaF2 − CeF3 1.0585 KLa(MoO4 )2
1.0539–1.0549 α − NaCaYF6 1.0586 Sr5 (PO4 )3 F
1.054 Gd3 Ga5 O12 1.0586 PbMoO4
1.054 LaAl11 MgO19 1.0587 KLa(MoO4 )2
1.054–1.086 LaAl11 MgO19 1.0587 CaWO4
1.0540 CaF2 − YF3 1.0588 Ca3 (Nb, Ga)2 Ga3 O12
1.0540 BaF2 1.0589 SrF2 − CeF3 − GdF3
1.0540 CaF2 − YF3 1.0589 Y3 Ga5 O12
Lasers and Coherent Light Sources 11.2 Solid-State Lasers 643

Table 11.14 (continued) Table 11.14 (continued)

Wavelength Material Wavelength Material
1.05896 CaMg2 Y2 Ge3 O12 1.060 LaB3 O6 [11.326]
1.059 (La, Sr)(Al, Ta)O3 1.0600 Gd3 Ga5 O12
1.059 BaLaGa3 O7 1.0601 GdGaGe2 O7
1.059 NaY(WO4 )2 1.0603 Y3 Ga5 O12

Part C 11.2
1.059 Na1+x Mgx Al11−x O17 1.0603 Gd2 (WO4 )3
1.059 Na2 Nd2 Pb6 (PO4 )6 Cl2 1.0603–1.0632 CaF2 − YF3
1.059 Sr5 (PO4 )3 F [11.312] 1.0604 HfO2 − Y2 O3
1.0590 SrF2 − CeF3 1.0604 NaLuGeO4
1.0590 Gd3 Ga5 O12 waveguide [11.313] 1.0605 SrF2 − ScF3
1.0591 Gd3 Ga5 O12 1.0606 Gd2 (MoO4 )3
1.0591 Lu3 Sc2 Al3 O12 1.0606 Gd3 Ga5 O12
1.0591 LaGaGe2 O7 1.0606 Gd3 Ga5 O12 waveguide [11.313]
1.0593 Sr4 Ca(PO4 )3 F 1.0607 Sr3 Ca2 (PO4 )3
1.0594 Lu3 Ga5 O12 1.0607 CaF2 − ScF3
1.0595 5NaF − 9YF3 1.0608 ZrO2 − Y2 O3
1.0595 Y3 Sc2 Al3 O12 1.0608 Nd3 Ga5 O12
1.0595 NaLa(MoO4 )2 1.0608 NaGaGe2 O7
1.0595 BaLaGa3 O7 1.0609 Lu3 Ga5 O12
1.0596 CaAl4 O7 1.0609 NaYGeO4
1.0596 Ca3 Ga2 Ge3 O12 1.061 Ca2 Al2 SiO7
1.0596 SrF2 1.061 BaGd2 (MoO4 )4
1.0597 Ca3 Ga2 Ge3 O12 1.061 CaMoO4
1.0597–1.0583 SrF2 − LaF3 1.061 YVO4 [11.327]
1.0597–1.0629 α − NaCaYF6 1.061 CaLa4 (SiO4 )3 O
1.0599 Lu3 Sc2 Al3 O12 1.0610 Ca2 Ga2 SiO7
1.0599 LiGd(MoO4 )2 1.0610 7La2 O3 − 9SiO2
1.05995 Gd3 Sc2 Al3 O12 1.0610–1.0627 Y3 Al5 O12
≈ 1.06 (Gd, Ca)3 (Ga, Mg, Zr)5 O12 : Cr 1.0612 Gd3 Sc2 Ga3 O12
≈ 1.06 CaGd4 (SiO4 )3 O 1.0612 CaLa4 (SiO4 )3 O
≈ 1.06 Ca4 YO(BO3 )3 [11.314] 1.0612 Ca3 (Nb, Ga)2 Ga3 O12
≈ 1.06 Y3 Al5 O12 [11.296] 1.0613 Ca4 La(PO4 )3 O
≈ 1.06 Y3 Sc1.0 Al4.0 O12 ceramic [11.315] 1.0613 Ba2 NaNb5 O15
≈ 1.06 Gd3 Sc2 Al3 O12 1.0613 Gd3 Sc2 Ga3 O12
≈ 1.06 GdAl3 (BO3 )4 [11.316] 1.0615 Ca(NbO3 )2
≈ 1.06 NaLa(MoO4 )2 1.0615 Y3 Al5 O12
≈ 1.06 NaGd(WO4 )2 1.0615 Lu3 Al5 OI
≈ 1.06 NdAl3 (BO3 )4 1.0615 Y3 Sc2 Ga3 O12
≈ 1.06 YAl3 (BO3 )4 [11.213, 317] 1.0615 Ba0.25 Mg2.75 Y2 Ge3 O12
≈ 1.06 Gd3 Ga5 O12 1.0615 NaGdGeO4
≈ 1.06 GdVO4 [11.213, 318–320] 1.0615 Y3 Al5 O12
≈ 1.06 YVO4 [11.319, 320] 1.0615–1.0625 Ca(NbO3 )2
≈ 1.06 La0.2 Gd0.8 VO4 [11.319, 321] 1.0618 Sr2 Ca3 (PO4 )3 F
1.060 Gd3 Ga5 O12 : Cr 1.0618 SrAl12 O19
1.060 Ca4 GdO(BO3 )3 1.0618 CaF2 − ScF3
[11.213, 322–324] 1.0618 LaNbO4
1.060 Ca4 YO(BO3 )3 [11.325] 1.062 LaSc3 (BO3 )4 [11.213, 328]
644 Part C Coherent and Incoherent Light Sources

Table 11.14 (continued) Table 11.14 (continued)

Wavelength Material Wavelength Material
1.0620 Gd3 Sc2 Al3 O12 1.064 Y3 Al5 O12 ceramic [11.315, 333–346]
1.0620 Lu3 Sc2 Al3 O12 1.064 Y3 Al5 O12 : Fe
1.0621 SrAl12 O19 1.064 Y3 Al5 O12 : Ti
1.0621 Gd3 Ga5 O12 1.064 Y3 Al5 O12 : Cr, Ce
Part C 11.2

1.0622 Y3 Sc2 Al3 O12 1.064 Y3 Al5 O12 : Ho

1.0623–1.10585 CaF2 − SrF2 − BaF2 − YF3 − LaF3 1.064 Y3 Al5 O12 : Er
1.0623 Lu3 Ga5 O12 1.064 YVO4 [11.213, 347–350]
1.0623 CaF2 − LuF3 1.064 YVO4 single crystal fiber [11.351]
1.0623–1.0628 CaF2 1.064 LaF3
1.0624 LaNbO4 1.064 KGd(WO4 )2 [11.352, 353]
1.0625 Y3 Ga5 O12 1.064 La3 Ga5.5 Ta0.5 O14 [11.354]
1.0625 YVO4 1.0640 La3 Ga5 SiO14
1.0628 SrWO4 1.0640–1.0657 CaF2 − CeF3
1.0629 Ca5 (PO4 )3 F 1.06405–1.0654 YAlO3
1.0629 α − NaCaYF6 1.0641 Y3 Al5 O12 : Cr
1.0629 Bi4 Si3 O12 1.0641 YVO4
1.0629–1.0656 CdF2 − YF3 1.0641 La3 Ga5.5 Ta0.5 O14
1.063 GdVO4 [11.329] 1.06415 Y3 Al5 O12
1.063 Gd3 Sc2 Ga3 O12 : Cr 1.06415 Y3 Al5 O12 [11.355]
1.063 SrWO4 1.0642 Ca3 Ga2 Ge3 O12
1.063 Na5 (Nd, La)(WO4 )4 1.0642 NaBi(WO4 )2
1.063 NdAl3 (BO3 )4 1.06425 Lu3 Al5 O12
1.063 (La, Nd)P5 O14 1.0643 SrMO4
1.063 NdAl3 (BO3 )4 1.0644 Bi4 Ge3 O12
1.0630 Ca5 (PO4 )3 F 1.0645 CaF2 − LaF3
1.0632 CaF2 − YF3 − NdF3 1.0645 La3 Ga5.5 Nb0.5 O14
1.0632 CaF2 − YF3 1.0645 La3 Ga5 SiO14
1.0633–1.0653 α − NaCaCeF6 1.0645 YAlO3
1.06335–1.0638 LaF3 1.0645 YAlO : Cr
1.0634 YVO4 1.0646 Y3 Al5 O12
1.0635 LaF3 − SrF2 1.0646 KLa(MoO4 )2
1.0635 NdAl3 (BO3 )4 1.0647 CeCl3
1.0635 NaLa(WO4 )2 1.0648 YVO4
1.0635 (Nd, Gd)Al3 (BO3 )4 1.0649 CaY2 Mg2 Ge3 O12
1.0635 Bi4 (Si, Ge)3 O12 1.065 GdVO4
1.0635 CaF2 − LuF3 1.065 (Nd, Gd)Al3 (BO3 )4
1.0637–1.0670 Y3 Al5 O12 1.065 Sr5 (VO4 )3 Cl
1.06375–1.0672 Lu3 Al5 O12 1.065 Sr5 (VO4 )3 F
1.0638 CeF3 1.0650 La3 Ga5 GeO14
1.0638 CaAl4 O7 1.0650 RbNd(WO4 )2
1.0638 NaBi(WO4 )2 1.0652 CaWO4
1.0638 NdP5 O14 1.0652 CdF2 − LuF3
1.0638 Ca3 Ga2 Ge3 O12 1.0653–1.0633 α − NaCaCeF6
1.0638–1.0644 (Y, Ce)3 Al5 O12 1.0653 NaLa(MoO4 )2
1.0639 Ca3 Ga2 Ge3 O12 1.0653–1.0665 NaLa(MoO4 )2
1.064 Y3 Al5 O12 [11.213, 301, 330–332] 1.0654 CaF2 − GdF3
Lasers and Coherent Light Sources 11.2 Solid-State Lasers 645

Table 11.14 (continued) Table 11.14 (continued)

Wavelength Material Wavelength Material
1.0654 NdGaGe2 O7 1.070 La2 Be2 O5
1.0656 CdF2 − YF3 1.0701 Gd2 (MoO4 )3
1.0657–1.0640 CaF2 − CeF3 1.0701–1.0706 KLu(WO4 )2
1.0657 CaF2 1.0706 KY(WO4 )2

Part C 11.2
1.0658 LiLa(MoO4 )2 1.0706 LaSr2 Ga11 O20
1.0658 CsNd(MoO4 )2 1.0711 Y2 SiO5
1.0658 LuVO4 [11.356] 1.0714 KLu(WO4 )2
1.0659 GdGaGe2 O7 1.0714–1.0716 KLu(WO4 )2
1.066 Nd(Ga, Cr)3 (BO3 )4 1.0715 Y2 SiO5
1.066 K5 Nd(MoO4 )4 1.0716–1.0721 KLu(WO4 )2
1.066 K5 Bi(MoO4 )4 1.0720 CaSc2 O4
1.0661 CaF2 1.0721 KLu(WO4 )2
1.0664–1.0672 YVO4 1.07255–1.0730 YAlO3
≈ 1.0665 CdF2 − LaF3 1.0726 YAlO3
1.0666 CdF2 1.0729 YAlO3
1.0667 CdF2 − GeF3 1.073 KLu(WO4 )2 [11.357]
1.0667 NaGd(MoO4 )2 1.0737 Y3 Al5 O12
1.0668 CdF2 − LaF3 ≈ 1.074 Y2 O3 − ThO2 − Nd2 O3
1.0669 KY(MoO4 )2 1.074 SrAl12 O19
1.067 Ca3 (VO4 )2 1.0741 Gd2 O3
1.0670 La3 Ga5 SiO14 1.0741 Y2 SiO5
1.0672 CaY4 (SiO4 )3 O 1.0742 Y2 SiO5
1.0672 CdF2 − GdF3 1.0746 Y2 O3
1.0672 KGd(WO4 )2 1.0746 Y2 O3 ceramic [11.358]
1.0672 La3 Ga5 SiO14 1.075 La2 O2 S
1.0673 GaMoO4 1.0757 Sr3 Ga2 Ge4 O14
1.0673 La3 Ga5 SiO14 1.0759 LuAlO3
1.0674 NaY(MoO4 )2 1.0759 Lu2 O3 ceramic [11.359]
1.0675 LuAlO3 1.0760 GdAlO3
1.0675 Na2 Nd2 Pb6 (PO4 )6 Cl2 1.0775–1.0845 CaYAlO4
1.0675 Nd3 Ga5 SiO14 1.0780 Y3 Al5 O12
1.0675 Nd3 Ga5 GeO14 1.0780–1.086 LaMgAl11 O19
1.068 Na2 Nd2 Pb6 (PO4 )6 Cl2 1.0782 Y2 SiO5
1.0680 Nd3 Ga5 GeO14 1.0782–1.0815 YAlO3
1.0682 Y3 Al5 O12 1.0785 LuScO3
1.0687–1.0690 KY(WO4 )2 1.0786 CaAl4 O7
1.0688 Ga3 Ga2 SiO7 1.0786 Y2 O3 ceramic [11.360]
1.0688 Ca2 Ga2 Ge4 O14 1.0788 Ca2 Ga2 SiO7
1.0688 KY(WO4 )2 1.0789 Gd2 O3
1.0689 NdGaGe2 O7 1.079 La2 Be2 O5
1.0690 GdAlO3 1.0790 La2 Be2 O5
1.0690 Ca3 Ga2 Ge4 O14 1.0790 Lu2 SiO5
1.0694 Sr3 Ga2 Ge4 O14 1.07925 Lu2 SiO5
1.0698 La2 Be2 O5 1.0795 YAlO3
1.07 KPb2 Br5 [11.309] 1.0795–1.0802 YAlO3
1.07 RbPb2 Br5 [11.309] 1.0796 YAlO3
646 Part C Coherent and Incoherent Light Sources

Table 11.14 (continued) Table 11.15 Laser wavelengths of the 4 F3/2 → 4 I13/2 tran-
Wavelength Material
sition at 300 K [11.213]
1.08 Y2 O3 Wavelength Material
1.08 YAlO3 [11.360] 1.18 (transition RbPb2 Br5 [11.309]
5/2 , H9/2 → I13/2 )
4F 2 4
1.080 Lu2 O3 ceramic [11.359]
1.0804 LaAlO3 1.3 KNdP4 O12
Part C 11.2

1.0806 CaYAlO4 1.3 NdAl3 (BO3 )4

1.0812 Sc2 SiO5 1.302 KYF4
1.08145 Sc2 SiO5 1.304– 1.372 (La, Nd)P5 O14
1.0817 LaMgAl11 O19 1.3065 SrAl12 O19
1.0824 LaMgAl11 O19 1.307 KYF4
1.082 Sc2 O3 [11.308] 1.3070 5NaF − 9YF3
1.082–1.084 LaMgAl11 O19 1.311– 1.334 NaNdP4 O12
1.0828 SrAl4 O7 1.313 LiYF4
1.0829–1.0859 LiNbO3 1.3133 LiLuF4
1.083 YAlO3 1.3150 Ca3 Ga2 Ge3 O12
1.0832 LuAlO3 1.316– 1.340 LiNdP4 O12
1.0832–1.0855 YAlO3 1.317 Li(La, Nd)P4 O12
1.0843 YScO3 1.317 LiNdP4 O12
1.0845 YAlO3 1.3170 CeF3
1.0846 LiNbO3 1.3175 BaF2
1.085 LiNbO3 : Mg 1.318 Y3 Al5 O12
1.08515 GdScO3 1.318 BaY2 F8
1.0868 CaSc2 O4 1.3185 CaF2 − GdF3
≈ 1.0885 CaF2 − CeO2 1.3185 BaF2 − LaF3
1.0885–1.0889 CaF2 1.3185 KY3 F10
1.0909 YAlO3 1.3187 Y3 Al5 O12
1.091 Ca4 GdO(BO3 )3 [11.322] 1.3188 Y3 Al5 O12
1.0921 YAlO3 1.319 Y3 Al5 O12 [11.330, 361]
1.0922–1.0933 LiNbO3 1.319 LiNdP4 O12
1.093 LiNbO3 1.319 Y3 Ga5 O12
1.0933 LiNbO3 1.319 Y3 Al5 O12 ceramic [11.362]
≈ 1.094 LiNbO3 : MgO 1.319– 1.325 (Y, Nd)P5 O14
1.0989 YAlO3 1.3190 Ca2 Y5 F19
1.1054 Y3 Al5 O12 1.3190 CaF2 − LaF3
1.1119 Y3 Al5 O12 1.3190 CaF2 − CeF3
1.1158 Y3 Al5 O12 1.3190 Sr2 Y5 F19
1.1225 Y3 Al5 O12 1.3190 α − NaCaCeF6
≈ 1.32 Y3 Al5 O12 ceramic [11.334]
1.32 Gd3 Sc2 Ga3 O12 : Cr
be reached within the crystal. This setup minimizes the 1.32 NdP5 O14
formation of thermal lenses, and therefore yields bet- 1.32 (La, Nd)P5 O14
ter beam quality at high powers compared to a rod laser. 1.32 K(Nd, Gd)P4 O12
Multiple passes of the pump radiation through the crystal 1.32 YLiF4 [11.363]
increase the absorption efficiency and also the effective 1.320 NaNdP4 O12
pump power density in the crystal. Therefore, the thin
1.3200 SrF2 − LuF3
disc design is suitable for quasi-three-level systems such
1.3200 BaF2 − YF3
as Yb3+ . Figure 11.58 shows the input versus output
1.3200 Y3 Al5 O12
power of a thin-disc Yb:YAG laser [11.311]. CW output
Lasers and Coherent Light Sources 11.2 Solid-State Lasers 647

Table 11.15 (continued) Table 11.15 (continued)

Wavelength Material Wavelength Material
1.3200 YP5 O14 1.3340 PbMoO4
1.3208 LiLuF4 1.3342 KLa(MoO4 )2
1.3209 Lu3 Al5 O12 1.3342 Lu3 Al5 O12
1.3209 Ba5 (PO4 )3 F 1.3342 NaBi(WO4 )2

Part C 11.2
1.3212 LiYF4 1.3345 SrAl4 O7
1.3225 CaF2 1.3347 Ca5 (PO4 )3 F
1.323 NdP5 O14 1.3347 SrWO4
1.323 (La, Nd)P5 O14 1.3350 KLa(MoO4 )2
1.324 (La, Nd)P5 O14 1.3350 Y3 Al5 O12
1.3245 CdF2 − YF3 1.3354 CaLa4 (SiO4 )3 O
1.3250 SrF2 − LaF3 1.3355 NaLa(WO4 )2
1.3250 SrF2 1.3360 Y3 Sc2 Al3 O12
1.3255 SrF2 − CeF3 1.3360 Gd3 Sc2 Al3 O12
1.3260 SrF2 − GdF3 1.3360 Lu3 Sc2 Al3 O12
1.3270 CaF2 − YF3 13360 Y3 Sc2 Al3 O12
1.3270 BaF2 1.3360 CdF2 − CeF3
1.3270 Ca3 (Nb, Ga)2 Ga3 O12 1.3365 Ca2 Ga2 SiO7
1.328 Sr5 (PO4 )3 F [11.213, 364] 1.3365 CdF2 − GaF3
1.3280 BaF2 − LaF3 1.3365 CdF2 − LaF3
1.3285 α − NaCaYF6 1.3370 CaF2 − YF3
1.3285 SrF2 − ScF3 1.3370 CaWO4
1.3298 CsLa(WO4 )2 1.3370 Gd3 Ga5 O12
1.3298 GdGaGe2 O7 1.3370 LiLa(MoO4 )2
1.330 CaF2 − LuF3 1.3375 α − NaCaYF6
1.3300 Gd3 Ga5 O12 1.338 Y3 Al5 O12 [11.365]
1.3300 CdF2 − ScF3 1.338 Y3 Ga5 O12
1.3303 NdGaGe2 O7 1.338 Sr5 (PO4 )3 F [11.366]
1.3305 HfO2 − Y2 O3 1.3380 Ca(NbO3 )2
1.3305 Y3 Ga5 O12 1.3380 NaLa(MoO4 )2
1.3310 LaF3 1.3381 Y3 Al5 O12
1.3310 Y3 Sc2 Ga3 O12 1.3382 Y3 Al5 O12
1.3310 NaLuGeO4 1.3385 NaGd(MoO4 )2
1.3315 LaF3 − SrF2 1.3387 Lu3 Al5 O12
1.3315 Lu3 Ga5 O12 1.339 YF3
1.3315 Gd3 Ga5 O12 1.3390 CaWO4
1.3315 Ca3 Ga2 Ge3 O12 ≈ 1.34 Y3 Al5 O12 [11.296, 367]
1.3317 Ca3 Ga2 Ge3 O12 ≈ 1.34 YAlO3 [11.360]
1.3320 CeF3 ≈ 1.34 GdVO4
1.3320 ZrO2 − Y2 O3 [11.213, 319, 320, 368–372]
1.3320 Ca3 Ga4 O9 ≈ 1.34 YVO4 [11.213, 319, 320]
1.3325 SrMoO4 ≈ 1.34 La0.2 Gd0.8 VO4 [11.319, 321]
1.3325 NaYGeO4 ≈ 1.34 LuVO4 [11.373]
1.3326 Lu3 Al5 O12 ≈ 1.34 GdAl3 (BO3 )4 [11.316]
1.3334 NaGdGeO4 1.3400 LiGd(MoO4 )2
1.3338 Y3 Al5 O12 1.3400 YAlO3
1.3340 CaWO4 1.3407 Bi4 Si3 O12
648 Part C Coherent and Incoherent Light Sources

Table 11.15 (continued) Table 11.15 (continued)

Wavelength Material Wavelength Material
1.341 NdAl3 (BO3 )4 1.3585 CaF2 − YF3
1.3410 Y3 Al5 O12 1.3585 Y2 SiO5
1.3410 Lu3 Al5 O12 1.3585 Lu2 SiO5
1.3410 YAlO3 1.3595 LaF3
Part C 11.2

1.3413 YAlO3 1.3600 α − NaCaYF6

1.3414 YAlO3 [11.213, 374, 375] 1.3628 LaSr2 Ga11 O20
1.3416 YAlO3 1.3630 KLa(MoO4 )2
1.3418 Bi4 Ge3 O12 1.3630–2 Sc2 SiO5
1.342 YVO4 [11.347, 376–383] 1.365 La2 Be2 O5
1.3420 CaAl4 O7 1.3657 KLa(MoO4 )2
1.3425 Ca(NbO3 )2 1.3665 SrAl4 O7
1.3425 YVO4 1.3675 LaF3
1.3425 PbMoO4 1.3680 SrAl4 O7
1.3425 CdF2 − YF3 1.3690 CeF3
1.3437 LuAlO3 1.3707 La3 Ga5.5 Nb0.5 O14
1.3440 NaLa(MoO4 )2 1.3710 CaAl4 O7
1.345 NdAl3 (BO3 )4 1.3730 La3 Ga5 GeO14
1.3475 CaWO4 1.3730 La3 Ga5 SiO14
1.3482 KLu(WO4 )2 1.3730 La3 Ga5.5 Ta0.5 O14
1.3485 KY(MoO4 )2 1.3745 LiNbO3
1.3493 Ca3 Ga2 Ge4 O14 1.3760 LaMgAll1 O19
1.35 KGd(WO4 )2 [11.384, 385] 1.386 YVO4 [11.377, 386]
1.3500 CdF2 − LuF3 1.3868 LaBGeO5
1.3505 CaF2 − ScF3 1.3870 LiNbO3
1.351 La2 Be2 O5 1.3885 CaWO4
1.351 KGd(WO4 )2 [11.353] 1.4150 Y3 Al5 O12
1.3510 KGd(WO4 )2 1.430 YAlO3 [11.387]
1.3510 La2 Be2 O5 1.44 SrGd4 (SiO4 )3 O
1.3510 Sr3 Ga2 Ge4 O14 1.4444 Y3 Al5 O12 [11.213, 387]
1.3512 YAlO3 1.486 Sc2 O3 [11.308]
1.3514 YAlO3
1.3520 CdF2 − GdF3 powers in the kilowatt range from one disc are possible.
1.3525 Ca2 Y5 F19 Further power scaling with several discs in the cavity is
1.3525 KY(WO4 )2 also possible [11.311].
1.3525 Lu3 Al5 O12
1.3532 Lu3 Al5 O12 Yb fiber laser. Fiber lasers present another approach for
1.3533 Y3 Al5 O12 the generation of high powers with diffraction-limited
1.3533 KLa(MoO4 )2 beam quality. Since the introduction of the double-clad
1.3533 KLu(WO4 )2 fiber more than two decades ago and with the recent
1.354 La2 Be2 O5 technological advances in the fields of fiber fabrication
1.3545 KY(WO4 )2
and beam-shaped high-power diode lasers, the perfor-
mance of diode-pumped fiber lasers has dramatically
1.3550 LiNbO3
improved. Today, fiber lasers can compete with their
1.3550 KLu(WO4 )2
corresponding bulk crystalline systems in certain appli-
1.3565 CaSc2 O4
cations, especially when fundamental-transverse-mode
1.3572 Y3 Al5 O12
continuous-wave (CW) laser operation at output powers
≈ 1.358 Y2 O3 in the milliwatt to kilowatt range is required.
Lasers and Coherent Light Sources 11.2 Solid-State Lasers 649

Basic aspects of fiber lasers. The invention of the

double-clad fiber geometry and the holey fiber concept Yb3+ (4f 13) Hee HSB Hc
has accelerated the scaling of the output power and hence 2
F7/2 (8) 2
the success of high-power Er, Nd and Yb fiber lasers. F5/2
For more-detailed reading a comprehensive introduction 4f 1h 2
F (14)
to the field of rare-earth-doped fiber lasers can be found L=3
S = 1/2 2
in [11.388]. F5/2 (6) 2

Part C 11.2
The choice of the fiber material involves a number
of considerations: The maximum phonon energy, envi- Fig. 11.54 Level scheme of Yb3+ : free-ion state (one 4f hole 4f1h ),
ronmental durability, the drawability and the rare-earth electron–electron interaction (Hee ), splitting by spin–orbit inter-
solubility. The maximum phonon energy of the glass action HSB , and crystal field Hc . Pump and laser transitions are
sets the overall infrared transparency range of the fiber indicated by arrows
and the multiphonon relaxation rates that influence the
quantum efficiency of radiative electronic transitions by 399]. When rare-earth ions are doped into these
nonradiative decay. The important physical properties glasses [11.400], the radiative transition probabili-
of the popular glasses used for optical fibers are shown ties, and therefore the absorption and emission cross
in Table 11.16. sections, are high as a result of the high (≈ 2.6) re-
fractive index and the high degree of covalency of
• Silicate glass. This glass is the most important ma- the glass. Small phonon energies of 300–450 cm−1
terial used for optical fiber production [11.388,389]. produce low rates of multiphonon relaxation for
However, the maximum phonon energy is high mid-infrared transitions. The low thermal conduc-
(≈ 1100 cm−1 ) and has so far limited the emission tivity (Table 11.16) is, however, an important factor
wavelength for infrared fiber lasers using this mater-
ial to approximately 2.2 µm [11.390]. Silica is robust
and fibers fabricated from this material involve the óabs (10–21 cm2)
very effective modified chemical vapor deposition 10
(MCVD) technique. Reducing the OH− content in Yb: YAG
Absorption at 300 K
the glass, which has two main absorption peaks
in the range 1.3–2.0 µm, reduces the background
absorption of fibers [11.391].
• Fluoride glass. These glasses, especially the
heavy-metal fluorides [11.392, 393], are used
as host materials for mid-infrared fiber lasers. 0
The most widespread fluoride fiber material is 850 900 950 1000 1050
Wavelength (nm)
ZBLAN [11.394] with a mixture of 53 mol % ZrF4 ,
20 mol % BaF2 , 4 mol % LaF3 , 3 mol % AlF3 , and Fig. 11.55 Absorption spectrum of Yb:YAG at 300 K
20 mol % NaF. Since it can be readily drawn into
single-mode optical fiber [11.395] it is particu-
larly important to mid-infrared fiber lasers [11.396] óem (10–21 cm2)
and allows for high infrared transparency up to 40
≈ 6 µm. Nonradiative decay by multiphonon relax- Emission at 300 K
ation, however, becomes significant for transitions at 30
wavelengths longer than ≈ 3 µm. In addition to mid-
infrared applications, ZBLAN is mostly also used 20
for upconversion fiber lasers which need metastable
intermediate pump levels with low multiphonon re- 10
laxation rates. An overview of the spectroscopic
properties of rare-earth ions doped into ZBLAN is 0
900 950 1000 1050 1100
given in [11.397]. Wavelength (nm)
• Chalcogenide glasses. Chalcogenides are composed
of the chalcogen elements S, Se and Te [11.398, Fig. 11.56 Emission spectrum of Yb:YAG at 300 K
650 Part C Coherent and Incoherent Light Sources

a) Pl (W) çopt (%)

Thin disc of Pump radiation Laser radiation
laser active medium 700 60

600 50
Part C 11.2

Multiple reimaging Resonator 30

Heat sink
of pump radiation mirror 300
Pl 20
b) Section 1 Section 2 çopt
Folding mirror 100 roc = 0.5 m 10
Section 2
2 0 0
8 3 0 200 400 600 800 1000 1200 1400
Pp (W)
5 6

Fig. 11.58 Output power and optical efficiency for a thin-
1 disc Yb:YAG laser using a single disc. (Pp = pump power,
Section 1 Pl = laser output power, ηopt = optical-optica efficiency)
Parabolic Thin laser disc Collimated Crystal and Parabolic
mirror with heat sink pump radiation focal plane mirror
(cladding pumped). The former method is less scalable
Fig. 11.57 (a) Thin-disc laser setup, (b) multiple-pass pump optics since it relies on the use of expensive high-beam-
for 16 passes quality pump sources because core areas are usually
< 100 µm2 . On the other hand, the larger cladding
to be considered in the design of chalcogenide- area (> 104 µm2 ) allows for high-power diode-array
based lasers. So far, the most important glasses pumping [11.408–411]. We will here describe the
are the sulfide glasses GaLaS (GLS) [11.401] and cladding-pumping technique, which is one of the
GeGaS [11.402] because of the reasonably high most important developments in high-power fiber-laser
rare-earth solubility. technology.

Fiber, pump and resonator geometries. As bulk lasers, • Fiber designs for cladding pumping. In the de-
fiber lasers can be operated continuous wave, pulsed sign of cladding pumping, the core of the fiber is
(including Q-switching) and mode-locked. These op- generally made to guide a single transverse LP01
eration modes have been investigated intensively for mode. The shape of the multimode pump cladding
the common laser transitions near 1 µm in Nd3+ and (Fig. 11.59), however, can be shaped with a num-
Yb3+ , and near 1.5 µm in Er3+ . However, the small ber of geometries. The pump cladding, which in
fiber diameter limits the peak power by the dam- turn is surrounded by a low-refractive-index trans-
age threshold intensity and, hence, crystalline lasers parent polymer or glass, provides a high numerical
in bulk geometries are mostly preferred when high- aperture (NA) of typically 0.3–0.55. Photonic crys-
energy short pulses are needed. In an analogous way tal structures can be also used to improve cladding
to the optical excitation of bulk gain media (see pumping [11.412] for the operation of fiber lasers
the section on longitudinal and transversal pump- at the multi-hundred-watt level. There are three
ing in this Sect. 11.2.2), doped optical fibers can be main double-clad-fiber layouts: circular, circular
either end pumped (core pumped) or side pumped with offset core, and rectangular, as shown schemat-

Table 11.16 Properties of popular fiber materials

Fiber material Max. phonon energy Infrared transparency Propagation losses Thermal conductivity
(cm−1 ) (µm) (λ at minimum) (dB/km) (W/Km)
Silica 1100 [11.403] < 2.5 0.2 (1.55 µm) 1.38 [11.404]
ZBLAN 550 [11.397] < 6.0 0.05 (2.55 µm) 0.7–0.8 [11.405]
GaLaS 425 [11.406] < 8.0 0.5 (3.50 µm) 0.43– 0.5 [11.407]
Lasers and Coherent Light Sources 11.2 Solid-State Lasers 651

ically in Fig. 11.59. In the case of circular pump

cladding [11.53] a portion of the launched pump a) b) c) d)
light is skew to the fiber axis and produces an in-
ner pump beam caustic that never crosses the core.
Asymmetric configurations significantly improve
the pump beam absorption in the core [11.413, 414].
Double-clad pump schemes have been demonstrated

Part C 11.2
with holey or photonic crystal fibers [11.415]. In Jacket Outer cladding Pump cladding Core
such fibers single-mode guiding and very large mode
areas are possible [11.416]. Fig. 11.59a–d Principal double-clad fiber geometries which in-
• Fiber-laser resonators. Typical free-running fiber- clude (a) circular-shaped pump cladding with axially positioned
laser resonators are shown schematically in core, (b) circular-shaped pump cladding with off-axially positioned
Fig. 11.60. In the simplest resonator (Fig. 11.60a), core, (c) rectangular-shaped pump cladding and (d) D-shaped pump
the pump light passes through a dichroic mirror that cladding
is highly reflective for the oscillating laser light.
Fresnel reflection at the cleaved output end facet drawbacks of significant thermal and thermo-optical
of the fiber can provide sufficient feedback for laser effects. Its large surface-area-to-volume ratio means
oscillation, although with an output-coupler mirror that the heat generated in the core is dissipated ef-
at the output end of the fiber the optical efficiency fectively by radiation and convection from the outer
can be maximized. In an alternative arrangement, the surface of the fiber.
pump light can be launched into the output end of the
fiber (Fig. 11.60b). In order to scale the output power, High-power Yb fiber lasers. Yb-doped fiber-lasers
each end of the fiber can be pumped (Fig. 11.60c). have been operated at CW and average output pow-
Due to its geometry, the fiber provides potentially ers in excess of 10 W [11.421–426], in excess of
high pump- and signal-beam intensities without the 100 W [11.427–433] and above 1 kW [11.434]. Also,
a 30 µm Yb-doped large-mode-area fiber has been used
Table 11.17 Material and laser parameters of Yb:YAG for the amplification of Q-switched Nd:YAG pulses at
repetition rates between 3 and 50 kHz with average out-
Growth method Czochralski [11.417] put powers up to 100 W. Pulse energies as high as
Temperature (◦ C) 1930 [11.417]
Crucible Ir (Re) [11.417]
Yb-distribution coefficient 1.0 [11.417] a)
Max. doping level (%) ≤ 100 [11.417]
Structure Cubic [11.417] Pump Output
Space group Ia3d-O10h [11.417] Fiber
Heat conductivity (Wm−1 K−1 ) M
Undoped YAG 11.0 [11.417]
Yb-doped (5%) 6.8 [11.417] M
RE-density (1021 cm−3 ) 14 [11.417]
λlaser (nm) 1030 [11.417] M
1050 c)
σem (cm2 ) at 1030 nm 19 × 10−21 [11.286]
20 × 10−21 [11.418] Pump Pump
21 × 10−21 [11.419] Fiber
σem (cm2 ) at 1050 nm 3 × 10−21 [11.286] Output M
σabs (cm2 ) at 969 nm 8.3 × 10−21 [11.286]
7.7 × 10−21 [11.419]
Fig. 11.60a–c Schematic diagram of resonators used for
σabs (cm2 ) at 941 nm 8.2 × 10−21 [11.286]
free-running fiber lasers with (a) a single-end co-
τrad (µs) 1040 [11.417]
propagating pump, (b) a single-end counter-propagating
951 [11.420] pump and (c) dual-end pumps. M represents a mirror
652 Part C Coherent and Incoherent Light Sources

4 mJ with diffraction-limited beam quality have been the Er absorption at these wavelengths is rather small,
obtained in this case [11.435]. because the absorption cross sections are in the or-
der of 1 to 2 × 10−20 cm2 (Figs. 11.62, 63). Doping
Yb3+ crystalline lasers. The properties and laser pa- levels higher than 1 to 2% are critical, because of
rameters of Yb:YAG are listed in Table 11.17. In the increased reabsorption losses and higher rates for en-
meantime, besides Yb:YAG, a lot of Yb-doped laser ergy transfer processes, which depopulates the upper
materials have been explored and tested in CW, Q- laser level (4 I13/2 , 4 I13/2 ) → (4 I15/2 , 4 I9/2 ). Therefore,
Part C 11.2

switched and mode-locked operation. Table 11.18 shows to keep the Er3+ concentration low but achieve higher
an overview of Yb-doped laser crystals. absorption, the usual approach is to codope the Er3+ -
doped laser material with Yb3+ , which can be very
Er lasers at 1.5 µm (4 I13/2 → 4 I15/2 ) efficiently pumped around 975–980 nm. Then, the en-
For many years Er3+ -doped materials have been ergy transfer process (2 F5/2 , 4 I15/2 ) → (2 F7/2 , 4 I11/2 )
widely investigated for laser applications in the spec- is exploited (Fig. 11.61). The main task for the
tral range around 1.6 µm [11.436]. This laser transition optimization of Er lasers around 1.55 µm is thus
(4 I13/2 → 4 I15/2 , see Er3+ energy-level scheme depicted to find the optimum concentration for both dopant
in Fig. 11.61) is used for eye-safe lasers for medicine, ions.
telecommunication, remote sensing and light detecting
and ranging (LIDAR). Suitable erbium-doped mater- Crystals. The absorption spectra of Er3+ :YVO4 for
ials for the 1.6 µm laser transition should be at first the 4 I15/2 → 4 I11/2 and 4 I15/2 → 4 I13/2 transitions
characterized by a high phonon energy, which en- are shown in Figures 11.62 and 11.63, respec-
ables fast depopulation of the pump level 4 I11/2 via tively [11.437]. The peak absorption cross section for
nonradiative decay in order to prevent excited-state the 4 I15/2 → 4 I11/2 transition around 970 nm is up to
absorption (ESA, I11/2 → H11/2 , S3/2 ) and upcon-
4 2 4 2 × 10−20 cm2 , for the 4 I15/2 → 4 I13/2 transition around
version UC1, (4 I11/2 , 4 I11/2 ) → (4 I15/2 , 4 F7/2 ) from 1500 nm cross sections are higher, approximately up
the 4 I11/2 level and to populate efficiently the 4 I13/2 to 4 × 10−20 cm2 . The emission spectrum is shown
upper laser level (Fig. 11.61). The second important in Fig. 11.63. The peak emission cross sections of
condition is that the ESA transition 4 I13/2 → 4 I9/2 the 4 I13/2 → 4 I15/2 emission in Er3+ :YVO4 are up
should not spectrally overlap with the range of to 2 × 10−20 cm2 , in the long-wavelength tail, where
stimulated emission
 around 1.6 µm and that the upcon- the laser oscillation occurs, the peak cross sections
version process UC2, (4 I13/2 , 4 I13/2 ) → (4 I9/2 , 4 I15/2 ) are around 0.5 × 10−20 cm2 . These values are typi-
is weak. Additionally, a significant splitting of the cal for Er3+ -doped crystals, e.g., the peak emission
ground-state multiplet is advantageous to achieve cross section around 1550 nm is 0.31 × 10−20 cm2 for
a quasi-four-level system. These conditions are best
fulfilled by Er3+ -doped glasses and fibers, which
are to date the most efficient lasers at this tran- E (103 cm–1)
sition. However, glasses suffer from poor thermal 4
F7/2 UC1
and mechanical stability, thus Er3+ -doped crys- 20 2
talline matrices are still being intensively investigated S3/2
in order to find suitable crystals for this laser 15
transition. ESA
For most applications of Er3+ -doped laser mater- I9/2 UC2 Energy transfer
ials, laser diodes operating in the wavelength range 10 I11/2
around 975 nm (the 4 I15/2 → 4 I11/2 transition) are used
as a pump source, thus enabling all-solid-state laser sys- I13/2 Wr Wnr ë pump =
tems. With Ti:sapphire pump lasers in general better 5 980 nm
ë pump = ëlaser =
laser results are obtained, however, the overall effi- 977 nm 1.6 µm

ciency is low. Another possible pump wavelength lies 0 4

around 1.5 µm, i. e., directly into the upper laser mul-
Er 3+ Yb3+
tiplet. However, for this wavelength region high-power
laser diodes are not yet available, therefore usually Er– Fig. 11.61 Energy-level diagram of Er3+ and Yb3+ in
glass lasers as pump sources are used. In any case, a YVO4 crystal
Lasers and Coherent Light Sources 11.2 Solid-State Lasers 653

Table 11.18 Yb3+ -doped laser crystals and laser transitions 2 F5/2 → 2 F7/2
Crystal λlaser (µm) Pump T (K) Output mode Ref.
BaCaBO3 F 1.034 TiS laser 300 p [11.440]
CaF2 : Na ≈ 1.046–1.048 Laser diode 300 ML [11.441]
1.051 Laser diode 300 Q-switch [11.441]
CaF2 : Nd 1.0336 Xe lamp 120 p [11.442]

Part C 11.2
1.030–1.055 TiS laser 300 CW [11.443]
Ca4 GdO(BO3 )3 - Laser diode 300 CW [11.444]
1.032 TiS laser 300 CW [11.445]
1.035–1.088 Laser diode 300 CW [11.446]
1.050 Laser diode 300 CW [11.446, 447]
1.050 TiS laser 300 CW [11.447]
1.082 TiS laser 300 CW [11.445]
1.082 Laser diode 300 CW [11.447]
Ca5 (PO4 )3 F 1.043 TiS laser 300 CW [11.448, 449]
Ca3 Sr2 (PO4 )3 F 1.046 TiS laser 300 CW [11.450]
Ca4 Sr(PO4 )3 F 0.985 TiS laser 300 CW [11.450]
1.046 TiS laser 300 CW [11.450]
1.110 TiS laser 300 CW [11.450]
Ca4 YO(BO3 )3 1.018–1.087 TiS laser 300 CW [11.451]
1.032 Laser diode 300 CW [11.452]
1.060 TiS laser 300 CW [11.453]
1.084–1.096 TiS laser 300 CW [11.454]
Gd3 Ga5 O12 1.039 Laser diode 300 Q-switch [11.455]
Gd3 Ga5 O12 : Nd 1.0232 Xe lamp 77 p [11.456]
Gd3 Sc2 Al3 O12 : Nd 1.0299 Xe lamp 77 p [11.457]
Gd2 SiO5 1.028–1.093 Laser diode 300 CW [11.458]
1.030–1.039 Laser diode 300 CW [11.459]
1.045–1.070 Laser diode 300 CW [11.459]
1.081–1.097 Laser diode 399 CW [11.459]
1.089 Laser diode 300 CW [11.460, 461]
1.090 Laser diode 300 CW [11.462, 463]
1.091–1.105 Laser diode 300 p [11.459]
1.094 Laser diode 300 CW [11.461]
GdVO4 1.015 Laser diode 300 CW [11.464]
1.015 TiS laser 300 CW [11.465]
1.015–1.019 Laser diode 300 CW [11.466]
1.026–1.031 Laser diode 300 CW [11.466]
1.029 Laser diode 300 CW [11.464]
1.029 TiS laser 300 CW [11.465]
1.040 Laser diode 300 CW [11.466]
1.045 Laser diode 300 CW [11.466]
(Gd, Y)2 SiO5 1.030–1.089 Laser diode 300 CW [11.458]
KGd(WO4 )2 1.026–1.044 Laser diode 300 CW [11.467]
1.030–1.051 Laser diode 300 CW [11.468]
1.031–1.0374 Laser diode 300 ML [11.469]
654 Part C Coherent and Incoherent Light Sources

Table 11.18 (continued)

Crystal λlaser (µm) Pump T (K) Output mode Ref.
KLu(WO4 )2 1.030 Laser diode 300 CW [11.470]
1.030 TiS laser 300 CW [11.470]
1.044 TiS laser 300 CW [11.471]
1.0435 Laser diode 300 CW [11.471]
Part C 11.2

KY(WO4 )2 1.026 Laser diode 300 CW [11.417]

1.026–1.042 Laser diode 300 CW [11.467]
1.030 TiS laser 300 CW [11.472]
1.048 Laser diode 300 ML [11.473]
≈ 1.028 Laser diode 300 ML [11.474]
1.030 Laser diode 300 CW [11.475]
0.987–1.051 Laser diode 300 CW [11.476]
KYb(WO4 )2 1.068 TiS laser 300 CW [11.477]
1.074 TiS laser 300 qCW [11.478]
LaSc3 (BO3 )4 1.044 TiS laser 300 CW [11.417]
1.045 TiS laser 300 CW [11.479]
0.995–1.087 Laser diode 300 CW [11.480]
LiGd(MoO4 )2 1.027–1.0335 Laser diode 300 CW [11.481]
LiNbO3 -waveguide 1.008 TiS laser 300 CW [11.482]
1.030 TiS laser 300 CW [11.482]
1.060 TiS laser 300 CW [11.482]
LiNbO3 : MgO 1.063 Laser diode 300 CW [11.483]
Li6 Y(BO3 )3 1.040 Laser diode 300 CW [11.484]
Lu3 Al5 O12 1.0297 Xe lamp 77 p [11.456]
1.03 Laser diode 175 CW [11.485]
Lu3 Al5 O12 : Nd, Cr 1.0294 Xe lamp 77 p [11.456]
Lu3 Ga5 O12 : Nd 1.0230 Xe lamp 77 p [11.456]
Lu2 O3 ≈ 1.029–1.038 TiS laser 300 ML [11.486]
1.032 Laser diode 300 CW [11.417]
ceramics 1.035 Laser diode 300 CW [11.487]
ceramics 1.079 Laser diode 300 CW [11.487]
Laser diode 300 CW [11.475]
Lu3 Sc2 Al3 O12 : Nd 1.0299 Xe lamp 77 p [11.457]
LuVO4 1.0347 Laser diode 300 CW [11.488]
1.041 Ti laser 300 CW [11.488]
1.0444 Laser diode 300 CW [11.488]
1.0527 Laser diode 300 CW [11.488]
NaGd(WO4 )2 1.016–1.049 TiS laser 300 CW [11.489]
1.023 TiS laser 300 CW [11.490]
1.033 Laser diode 300 CW [11.490]
NaLa(MoO4 )2 1.016–1.064 TiS laser 300 CW [11.491]
1.017 Laser diode 300 CW [11.492]
≈ 1.020 Laser diode 300 Q-switch [11.492]
1.023 Laser diode 300 CW [11.492]
1.035 Laser diode 300 CW [11.491]
NaLa(WO4 )2 1.017–1.057 TiS laser 300 CW [11.493]
Lasers and Coherent Light Sources 11.2 Solid-State Lasers 655

Table 11.18 (continued)

Crystal λlaser (µm) Pump T (K) Output mode Ref.
Sc2 O3 1.041 TiS laser 300 CW [11.494]
1.0416 TiS laser 300 CW [11.495]
1.0946 TiS laser 300 CW [11.495]
ceramic 1.041 Laser diode 300 CW [11.496]

Part C 11.2
ceramic 1.094 Laser diode 300 CW [11.496]
Sr5 (PO4 )3 F 0.985 Cr:LiSAF 300 p [11.497]
0.985 TiS laser 300 CW [11.498, 499]
1.047 TiS laser 300 CW, qCW [11.500, 501]
Laser diode 300 p [11.502]
Sr5−x Bax (PO4 )3 F ≈ 1.048 TiS laser 300 CW [11.500]
(Sr0.7 Ca0.3 )3 Y(BO3 )3 Laser diode 300 CW, qCW [11.503]
Sr5 (VO4 )3 F 1.044 TiS laser 300 p [11.450]
Sr3 Y(BO3 )3 Laser diode 300 CW, qCW [11.494]
SrY4 (SiO4 )3 1.020–1.095 Laser diode 300 CW [11.504]
≈ 1.068 Laser diode 300 ML [11.504]
Y3 Al5 O12 1.016–1.095 TiS laser 300 CW [11.505]
1.0293 Xe lamp 77 p [11.456]
1.0296 Xe lamp 77 p [11.279]
1.023–1.052 Laser diode 300 CW [11.506]
1.029 Laser diode 300 CW, qCW [11.507]
waveguide 1.03 TiS laser 300 CW [11.508]
1.030 TiS laser 300 CW [11.509]
1.03 Laser diode 300 CW [11.280, 417,
507, 510]
1.03 Laser diode 300 Q-switch [11.511, 512]
1.03 Laser diode 300 ML [11.513]
1.03 TiS laser 300 Q-switch [11.514, 515]
waveguide 1.03 Laser diode 300 CW [11.516]
waveguide 1.03 Laser diode 300 CW [11.517]
waveguide 1.03 Laser diode 300 Q-switch [11.517]
1.031 Laser diode 300 p [11.501]
1.031 Laser diode 300 CW [11.518, 519]
≈ 1.0312 Laser diode 300 ML [11.519]
1.0494–1.0504 Laser diode 300 CW [11.520]
1.070 Laser diode 300 CW [11.311]
Y3 Al5 O12 : Nd 1.0297 Xe lamp 200 p [11.456]
waveguide 1.03 TiS laser 300 CW [11.521]
Y3 Al5 O12 : Nd, Cr 1.0298 Xe lamp 210 P [11.456]
YAl3 (BO3 )4 ≈ 1.040 Laser diode 300 CW [11.522]
1.120–1.140 Laser diode 300 CW [11.523, 524]
Y3 Ga5 O12 : Nd 1.0233 Xe lamp 77 P [11.456]
YLiF4 ≈ 0.991–1.022 Laser diode 77 P [11.525]
YLuSiO5 1.014–1.091 Laser diode 300 CW [11.526]
Y2 O3 ceramic ≈ 1.076 Laser diode 300 CW [11.527]
ceramic ≈ 1.076 Laser diode 300 ML [11.527]
ceramic 1.0767–1.0784 Laser diode 300 CW [11.520]
ceramic 1.078 Laser diode 300 CW [11.528]
656 Part C Coherent and Incoherent Light Sources

Table 11.18 (continued)

Crystal λlaser (µm) Pump T (K) Output mode Ref.
Y2 SiO5 1.000–1.010 Laser diode 300 CW [11.529]
1.082 Laser diode 300 CW [11.529]
Y3 Sc1.0 Al4.1 O12 ceramic ≈ 1.060 Laser diode 300 CW, ML [11.530]
YVO4 1.020–1.027 Laser diode 300 CW [11.531]
Part C 11.2

1.037 TiS laser 300 CW [11.532]

1.039 Laser diode 300 CW [11.532]

Er:YAlO3 [11.436], 0.33 × 10−20 cm2 for Er:Y2 SiO5 tioned loss mechanism of reabsorption and upconversion
[11.438], 0.45 × 10−20 cm2 for Er:YAG [11.436], already take place. The laser threshold is below 200 mW
0.42 × 10−20 cm2 for Er:YLF [11.436], and 0.59 × of incident power and below 100 mW of absorbed pump
10−20 cm2 for Er:LaGaO3 [11.439]. power.
From the absorption and emission spectra the gain These values for the slope efficiency, the laser thresh-
coefficient curves (Fig. 11.64) can be calculated by old and the output power are typical for well-performing
Er3+ -doped crystals, such as for Y3 Al5 O12 [11.533] and
g = N[Pσem − (1 − P)σabs ] , LaSc3 (BO3 )4 [11.534].
where N is the ion concentration and P is the inversion Recently, high-power and ultra-efficient laser op-
coefficient, defined as the ratio between the populations eration of an Er:YAG laser near 1645 nm with
in the 4 I13/2 and the 4 I15/2 levels. It can be seen that for approximately 60 W [11.535–538] of output power
Er3+ :YVO4 already for an inversion coefficient of P ≈ was demonstrated using a high-power fibre laser at
0.2 laser oscillation should be possible within a spectral 1532 nm as a pump source (so-called in-band pump-
range from approximately 1530 nm to 1610 nm. ing (Fig. 11.65b). This work demonstrates that the small
In Fig. 11.65a the input–output characteristics of Stokes shift between the pump and laser radiation
Ti:sapphire-pumped Er3+ :YVO4 crystals with 0.5% Er (1532 nm/1645 nm) yields very efficient Er lasers with
and 1% Er doping, operating at 1604 nm, are shown. slope efficiencies up to 80%.
The slope efficiency with respect to the incident power In Table 11.19 an overview of crystalline room-
is about 7–8%. It should be noted that with respect temperature Er3+ lasers is given. Note that lasers on
to the absorbed power the 0.5% Er:YVO4 crystal ex- the 4 S3/2 → 4 I9/2 transition are also listed.
hibits a higher slope efficiency. This indicates that for
the more highly doped sample (1% Er) the aforemen-
óabs , óem (1020 cm–2)
óabs (1020 cm–2) ó 4
I15/2 « 4I13/2
1,5 óabs
I15/2 ® 4I11/2 1 ðem
ó spectrum
ð spectrum
1 0

0.5 2

1450 1500 1550 1600 1650 1700
0 Wavelength (nm)
970 980 990 1000 1010
Wavelength (nm)
Fig. 11.63 Spectra of absorption cross sections due to the
Fig. 11.62 Polarized absorption spectra at room tempera- 4I → 4 I13/2 transition of Er3+ in YVO4 crystal (dotted
ture of an Er3+ :YVO4 crystal in the spectral range of the lines) and emission cross sections (4 I13/2 → 4 I15/2 ) (solid
15/2 → I11/2 transition. (After [11.437]) lines) for σ and π polarization. (After [11.437])
4I 4
Lasers and Coherent Light Sources 11.2 Solid-State Lasers 657

Glass. Laser oscillation in Er3+ -doped and Yb3+ ,Er3+ -

Gain coefficient g (cm–1)
codoped silicate and phosphate glasses was investigated
as early as the mid-1960s [11.539–541]. The three-level 4 ó
behavior of the Er3+ system and the weak absorp- 2
tion of pump radiation caused by the requirement 0
of low dopant concentration (usually approximately P = 0.1; 0.2; 0.3; 0.4
2 to 5 × 1019 cm−3 ) makes it difficult to obtain ef- –6

Part C 11.2
ficient laser operation in singly Er3+ -doped glasses. –10
Therefore, Yb3+ codoping is necessary in order to 6 ð
absorb the pump light efficiently at wavelengths 4
around 1 µm. Continuous-wave laser oscillation, Q- 0
switched [11.542, 543] and quasi-CW operation with –2 P = 0.1; 0.2; 0.3; 0.4
pulse energies up to 35 J and average output pow- –4
ers up to 20 W have been obtained [11.544–548]. –8
The pulse duration of the Xe flashlamps is sev- –10
1480 1500 1520 1540 1560 1580 1600 1620
eral milliseconds, thus matching the upper-laser-level Wavelength (nm)
lifetime of the Er3+ 4 I13/2 level. Also laser diodes
can be efficiently applied as pump sources. Wu Fig. 11.64 Gain coefficient curves derived for both polarizations for
et al. [11.549] used pulsed laser diodes in a transver- Er3+ :YVO4 in the spectral range of the 4 I15/2 → 4 I11/2 laser tran-
sal excitation scheme. Using a repetition rate of sition for four values of the inversion parameter P (larger gain
50 Hz, a pump pulse duration of 2.5 ms and a peak values for larger P). Arrows denote the wavelengths for which laser
pump power of ≈ 1.5 kW, an average output power oscillation was realized. (After [11.437])
of 8.5 W was obtained, corresponding to an out-
put energy of 170 mJ per pulse. A comparison and a) Pout (mW)
discussion of different pumping schemes is given 120
in [11.550]. In all experiments, the main problem 0.5 % Er: YVO4
of glass materials compared to crystals is the low 100 çabs = 19 %, çinc = 6.7 %

heat conductivity (for Kigre QE7 0.82 W/mK [11.547] 1 % Er: YVO4
80 çabs = 13 %, çinc = 8 %
versus 13 W/mK for YAG). Thus, the introduced
heating power and therefore also the extractable 60
output power and/or repetition rate is limited and
high-power continuous-wave excitation of Er3+ -doped 40
glasses is difficult. Despite this, the overall perfor-
mance of the Kigre QE7 and QX glasses is better than 20
that of Er3+ -doped crystals. Obaton et al. [11.551]
obtained a slope efficiency of 21% in a diode end- 0 500 1000 1500 2000
pumped setup for a QX glass. Diening [11.552] Pin (mW)
b) Output power (W)
compared Kigre QE7 glass with Er3+ :LaSc3 (BO3 )4
and Y3 Al5 O12 in the same setup (Fig. 11.66). The
achieved output power and slope efficiency for 60
the QE7 glass are about twice as high as for
Er3+ :LaSc3 (BO3 )4 .

Fig. 11.65 (a) Input–output curve of the CW laser oscil- 30

lation of Er3+ (0.5%):YVO4 crystal (λlaser = 1604 nm, 20
output mirror transmission = 1%). The slope efficiencies
are given with respect to the absorbed (ηabs ) and incident 10
(ηin ) power. (Results from [11.437]). (b) In-band pump- 0
ing of Er:YAG with a fiber laser at 1532 nm and lasing at 0 20 40 60 80
Incident pump power (W)
λlaser = 1645 nm [11.535]
658 Part C Coherent and Incoherent Light Sources

Table 11.19 Overview of room-temperature Er3+ -doped laser operating around 1.6 µm on the 4I
13/2 → 4 I15/2 and on the
3/2 → 4 I9/2 transition
Crystal λlaser (nm) Transition Slope Mode of Pump source/Remarks Ref.
efficiency (%) operation
13/2 → I15/2
Ca2 Al2 SiO7 1530 nm 4I 4 1.1 CW Ti:Sapphire 940 nm, 975 nm [11.553]
13/2 → I15/2
1550 nm 4I 4 1.5 CW Ti:Sapphire 940 nm, 975 nm [11.553]
13/2 → I15/2
4I 4
Part C 11.2

1555 nm 5 CW Ti:Sapphire 940 nm, 975 nm [11.553]

LiNbO3 : Ti 1532 nm 4I
13/2 → I15/2
4 6 CW Tl:KCl, 1477 nm [11.554]
13/2 → I15/2
1563 nm 4I 4 3 CW, pulsed Tl:KCl 1479 nm, 1484 nm [11.555]
13/2 → I15/2
1576 nm 4I 4 CW, pulsed Tl:KCl 1479 nm, 1484 nm [11.555]
13/2 → I15/2
SrY4 (SiO4 )3 O 1554 nm 4I 4 0.4 CW Laser diode 980 nm [11.556]
YAlO3 1662 nm 4S
3/2 →4I
9/2 10.1 CW Kr+ [11.557]
3/2 → I9/2
1663 nm 4S 4 0.07 Pulsed Xe-flash lamp [11.558]
3/2 → I9/2
1663 nm 4S 4 Pulsed Xe-flash lamp [11.559,
1663.2 nm 4S
3/2 →4 I9/2 Pulsed Xe-flash lamp [11.561–
1663.2 nm 4S
3/2 → I9/2
4 CW Ar+ , 488 nm [11.564]
3/2 → I9/2
1667 nm 4S 4 0.02 Pulsed Xe-flash lamp [11.565]
1677.6 nm 4S
3/2 → I9/2
4 2.2 CW Ar+ , 488 nm [11.564]
3/2 → I9/2
1706 nm 4S 4 0.02 Pulsed Xe-flash lamp [11.565]
1706.1 nm 4S
3/2 →4I
9/2 CW Ar+ , 488 nm [11.564]
1729 nm 4S
3/2 →4I
9/2 0.02 Pulsed Xe-flash lamp [11.565]
1729.6 nm 4S
3/2 → I9/2
4 CW Ar+ , 488 nm [11.564]
LiYF4 1620 nm 4I
13/2 → I15/2
4 CW Kr+ , 647 nm [11.566]
1640 nm 4I
13/2 → 4I
15/2 CW Kr+ , 647 nm [11.566]
3/2 → I9/2
1664.0 nm 4S 4 Pulsed Xe flashlamp [11.567]
3/2 → I9/2
1730 nm 4S 4 0.6 Pulsed Xe flashlamp [11.568]
3/2 → I9/2
1732.0 nm 4S 4 Pulsed Xe flashlamp [11.569]
13/2 → I15/2
Y3 Al5 O12 1617 nm 4I 4 10 Q-switched (4 kHz) Er-fiber laser, 1543 nm [11.570]
13/2 → I15/2
1632 nm 4I 4 Pulsed Xe flashlamp [11.571]
13/2 → I15/2
1634 nm 4I 4 Pulsed, intracavity Er:glass 1549 nm [11.572]
1640 nm 4I
13/2 → I15/2
4 12.7 CW Kr+ , 647 nm [11.533]
13/2 → I15/2
1640 nm 4I 4 0,5 Q-switched Er:glass 1534 nm [11.573]
13/2 → I15/2
1644 nm 4I 4 7 Pulsed Er:glass 1535 nm [11.574]
13/2 → I15/2
1644.9 nm 4I 4 Pulsed Xe flashlamp [11.575]
13/2 → I15/2
1645 nm 4I 4 40 Pulsed Er:glass 1532 nm [11.576]
13/2 → I15/2
1645 nm 4I 4 40 Q-switched Yb, Er-doped fiber 1530 nm [11.577]
1645 nm 4I
13/2 → 4I
15/2 46 Pulsed 1.5 µm laser diodes [11.578]
1645 nm 4I
13/2 → 4I
15/2 40 CW Er-fiber laser, 1543 nm [11.570]
13/2 → I15/2
1645.3 nm 4I 4 81 CW, Q-switched Yb, Er-doped fiber 1530 nm [11.535]
13/2 → I15/2
1645.9 nm 4I 4 Pulsed Xe flashlamp [11.579]
1646 nm 4I
13/2 → 4I
15/2 7 CW laser diode [11.580]
3/2 → I9/2
1775.7 nm 4S 4 Pulsed Xe flashlamp [11.563,
571, 581]
Y3 Ga5 O12 1640 nm 4I
13/2 → I15/2
4 0.9 CW Kr+ , 647 nm [11.533]
Y3 Sc2 Ga3 O12 1643 nm 4I
13/2 → 4I
15/2 10 Pulsed Er:glass, 1532 nm [11.582]
Lu3 Al5 O12 1776.2 nm 4S
3/2 →4I
9/2 Pulsed Xe flashlamp [11.563]
Lasers and Coherent Light Sources 11.2 Solid-State Lasers 659

Table 11.19 (continued)

Crystal λlaser (nm) Transition Slope Mode of Pump source/Remarks Ref.
efficiency (%) operation
3/2 → I9/2
KGd(WO4 )2 1715.5 nm 4S 4 Pulsed Xe flashlamp [11.583]
1732.5 nm 4S
3/2 →4I
9/2 Pulsed Xe flashlamp [11.583]
3/2 → I9/2
1733.0 nm 4S 4 Pulsed Xe flashlamp [11.584]
13/2 → I15/2

Part C 11.2
KY(WO4 )2 1540 nm 4I 4 1 CW Ti:Sapphire [11.585]
3/2 → I9/2
1737.2 nm 4S 4 Pulsed Xe flashlamp [11.584]
3/2 → I9/2
KLa(MoO4 )2 1730 nm 4S 4 Pulsed Xe flashlamp [11.586]
3/2 → I9/2
LiLuF4 1734.5 nm 4S 4 Pulsed Xe flashlamp [11.587,
3/2 → I9/2
KLu(WO4 )2 1739.0 nm 4S 4 Pulsed Xe flashlamp [11.584]
3/2 → I9/2
KEr(WO4 )2 1737.2 nm 4S 4 Pulsed Xe flashlamp [11.584]
13/2 → I15/2
YVO4 1604 nm 4I 4 19 CW Ti:Sapphire [11.437]
(1531 nm,
1553 nm,
1564 nm,
1580 nm)
Y2 SiO5 1617 nm 4I
13/2 →4 I15/2 5.6 CW laser diode [11.580]
(1545 nm,
1567 nm,
1576 nm)
Sc2 SiO5 1558 nm 4I
13/2 →4 I15/2 CW Ti:Sapphire 979 nm [11.589]
1551 nm 4I
13/2 →4 I15/2 1.8 CW Ti:Sapphire 920 nm [11.589]
1551 nm 4I
13/2 →4 I15/2 2.4 CW laser diode 968 nm [11.589]
Sc2 Si2 O7 1545 nm 4I
13/2 →4 I15/2 2.6 CW Ti:Sapphire 980 nm [11.589]
1556 nm 4I
13/2 →4 I15/2 2.3 CW Ti:Sapphire 978 nm [11.589]
LaSc3 (BO3 )4 1563 nm 4I
13/2 →4 I15/2 6 CW laser diode 975 nm [11.534]
Ca4 YO(BO3 )3 1.5–1.6 µm 4I
13/2 →4 I15/2 26.8 CW laser diode [11.590,
Ca4 GdO(BO3 )3 1.54 µm 4I
13/2 →4 I15/2 15 CW laser diode 975 nm [11.592]
7 Ti:Sapphire 902 nm

Fibers. Erbium-doped fiber lasers have been exten- of the 4 I13/2 level (8–10 ms) in silica fibers, despite
sively studied for their potential use as sources in the three-level laser character causing ground-state ab-
communication systems operation in the third com- sorption at this wavelength. Like in Er3+ -doped crystals
munication window around 1.55 µm. All these lasers and glasses, concentration quenching occurs. In order
oscillate on the 4 I13/2 → 4 I15/2 transition, either in to enhance the absorption efficiency without increas-
continuous-wave or pulsed mode. In singly Er3+ -doped ing the Er3+ concentration and/or fiber length, Yb3+
fibers, suitable pump wavelengths for using laser diodes codoping is used, especially when diode pumping be-
are 810 nm (4 I15/2 → 4 I9/2 ), 980 nm (4 I15/2 → 4 I11/2 ) tween 900 nm and 1000 nm is used. The requirement for
and 1480 nm (4 I15/2 → 4 I13/2 ). Other possible pump efficient operation is – as in the crystals and glasses – ef-
bands are around 660 nm (4 I15/2 → 4 F9/2 ), 532 nm and ficient energy transfer from the Yb3+ 2 F5/2 level to the
514.5 nm (4 I15/2 → 4 H11/2 ). The pump wavelengths at Er3+ 4 I13/2 level (Fig. 11.61). In Table 11.20, some of
810 nm and 514.5 nm suffer from strong excited-state the Er-fiber lasers around 1.55 µm are summarized. For
absorption, yielding a loss of pump photons [11.593]. a very detailed discussion of Er3+ -doped fiber lasers
The gain coefficient of Er-doped fibers is rather high and amplifier see [11.595]. In summary, Er3+ -doped
(11 dB/mW [11.594]) due to the fairly high peak emis- fiber lasers operating around 1.55 mm are extremely ef-
sion cross section of 4–7 × 10−21 and the long lifetime ficient. Output powers in the watt range are possible.
660 Part C Coherent and Incoherent Light Sources

Pout (mW)
11.2.4 Mid-Infrared Lasers
250 The mid-infrared wavelength range ≈ 1.9–5.0 µm is of
Kigre QE7 interest for a number of applications. Mid-infrared solid-
200 Yb, Er: La Sc3 (Bo3)4 state lasers serve as light sources for spectroscopy, e.g.,
Yb, Er: Y3 Al5 O12
in remote sensing of the atmosphere, as the frequencies
Part C 11.2

150 of internal vibrational motion of many molecules can be

found in this spectral region. Other applications include
medicine, e.g., microsurgery and dentistry in the region
50 of high water absorption around 2.7–3 µm. Laser wave-
lengths near 2 µm are suitable for tissue welding and
0 lithotripsy.
0 500 1000 1500 2000 2500 3000
Pin (mW) The first mid-infrared laser was operated in 1960,
shortly after the invention of the laser itself. It was op-
Fig. 11.66 Results of the laser experiments with Kigre QE7 erated at 2.6 µm in a calcium fluoride crystal doped
glass, Yb3+ (10%), Er3+ (0.5%): LaSc3 (BO3 )4 and Yb3+ , with trivalent uranium [11.608]. Pulsed excitation and
Er3+ (0.5%): Y3 AL5 O12 . (After [11.552]) cooling to low temperatures were typically required for
novel laser transitions in the early years. Two years later,
Nowadays up to 100 W of output power are commer- a Dy2+ -doped CaF2 laser at 2.36 µm was also demon-
cially available [11.596]. Most efficient pumping occurs strated in continuous-wave operation [11.609, 610].
at 1480 nm, here slope efficiencies close to the quantum Among the lasers based on trivalent rare-earth ions, the
limit of 95% are possible. Pumping at 980 nm is less transitions near 2 µm in Tm3+ and Ho3+ were operated
efficient due to the higher quantum defect, however, at in CaWO4 in 1962 [11.611,612]. The first observation of
this wavelength highly efficient and reliable high-power coherent emission near 3 µm from erbium ions was re-
laser diodes are available. ported in 1967 [11.613]. Since those early years, a large
number of new host materials has been developed and
Other near-infrared Er3+ lasers. Room-temperature various new laser transitions in the mid-infrared spectral
laser oscillation in Er3+ -doped crystals in the near- region have been demonstrated (for a comprehen-
infrared spectral range has also been observed at sive overview of ion–host combinations, see [11.614]).
other wavelengths. In Yb3+ -codoped Er3+ :YLiF4 an Around 1990, Tm3+ - and Ho3+ -doped solid-state laser
upconversion pumping scheme was realized for the systems in Y3 Al5 O12 (YAG), YLiF4 (YLF), YVO4 , and
3/2 → I11/2 transition at 1234 nm, which allowed
4S 4 Y3 Sc2 Ga3 O12 (YSGG) were shown to operate between
continuous-wave room-temperature Ti:sapphire- and 1.86 and 2.46 µm [11.615–618], and Er3+ -doped lasers
diode-pumped laser oscillation [11.597, 598]. Under in similar host systems cover the wavelength range of
Ti:sapphire excitation around 966 nm output powers 2.66–2.94 µm. Short-pulse lasers at these wavelengths
of 160 mW and slope efficiencies of up to 22% were have been demonstrated [11.619, 620].
obtained. Note, that without the Yb codoping, the out- Nowadays, mid-infrared laser transitions ranging
put powers were an order of magnitude lower. Under from 1.8 µm up to 7.2 µm [11.621] are known in di-
diode laser pumping at 966 nm, Yb3+ ,Er3+ :YLiF4 ex- valent Dy, trivalent Tm, Ho, Er, Dy, Pr, Tb, and Nd, as
hibited output powers of 80 mW and slope efficiencies well as in trivalent U. The current state of the art in solid-
of 7%. state lasers occurring in rare-earth ions such as Tm3+ ,
For this transition Xe flashlamp excitation is Ho3+ , Er3+ and others and their population mecha-
also possible allowing room-temperature laser oscil- nisms are discussed in this section on the basis of the
lation in YLiF4 [11.599–601], LuLiF4 [11.602] and spectroscopic properties of these ions. Continuous-wave
YAlO3 [11.603]. In BaYb2 F8 , the 4 F9/2 → 4 I13/2 transi- fundamental-mode power levels ranging from a few mW
tion at 1260 nm exhibited laser oscillation under pulsed near 4 µm up to ≈ 100 W near 2 µm have been demon-
Nd laser or Xe flashlamp excitation [11.604]. Laser os- strated in recent years. Power-scaling methods and their
cillation on the 4 F9/2 → 4 I11/2 transition was obtained limitations, the possibilities to optimize the population
around 1.96 µm in BaYb2 F8 [11.605–607] under pulsed mechanisms and increase the efficiencies of these lasers,
Nd laser and Xe flashlamp excitation. as well as the prospects of future mid-infrared lasers in
Lasers and Coherent Light Sources 11.2 Solid-State Lasers 661

Table 11.20 Overview over Er3+ and Yb3+ :Er3+ -doped silica fiber lasers. λlaser : laser wavelength, λpump : pump wavelength, lfiber :
fiber length, Pthr : laser threshold, η: slope efficiency, Pout : output power, Ppump : pump power, Ref.: reference, (l): launched, (inc):
incident, (abs): absorbed, NA: not available. (After [11.595])
λlaser λ Pum p Er Yb lfiber Remarks Pthr η Pout max. Ppump Ref.
(nm) (nm) concen- concen- (m) (mW) (%) (mW) (mW)
tration tration
Ar+ pump

Part C 11.2
1566 514.5 35 ppm Er - 13 44 (l) 10 (l) 56 600 (l) [11.622]
1560 532 150 ppm - 1 Ring laser 10 (l) 5.1 (l) 1.8 45 (l) [11.623]
Er2 O3
1535 532 100 ppm Er - 15 Doubled NA 28 1000 3600 [11.624]
1560 806 500 ppm Er - 3.7 Laser diode 10 (l) 16 (l) 8 56 (l) [11.625]
1620 808 300 ppm Er - 1.5 Laser diode 3 (abs) 3.3 (abs) 0.13 7 (abs) [11.626]
1560 980 0.08 wt % - 0.9 Dye laser 2.5 (abs) 58 (abs) 4.7 11.3 (abs) [11.627]
1540 980 1100 ppm Er - 9.5 Ti:Sapphire > 10 (l) > 49 (l) 260 540 (l) [11.628]
1552 1460 1370 ppm Er - 5 2 laser diodes 37 (l) 14 (l) 8 93 (l) [11.629]
1552 1470 1370 ppm Er - 7 laser diode 44 (abs) 6.3 (abs) 1 60 (abs) [11.630]
1555 1480 45 ppm Er - 60 laser diode 6.5 (l) 38.8 (l) 3.3 15 (l) [11.631]
1560 1480 110 ppm - 42.6 laser diode 4.8 (abs) 58.6 (abs) 14.2 29 (abs) [11.632]
Er2 O3
1570 810 0.06 wt % 1.3 wt % 1.45 2 laser diodes 12.7 (l) 15.4 (l) 2.3 28 (l) [11.633]
1560 820 0.08% 1.7% 0.7 Dye laser 3.7 (abs) 7 (abs) NA NA [11.634]
1560 832 0.08% 1.7% 0.7 Dye laser 5 (abs) 8.5 (abs) NA NA [11.635]
1537 962 900 ppm 1.1% 1.6 laser diode 130 (l) 19 (l) 96 620 (l) [11.636]
1545 980 NA NA 0.07 laser diode 1 (abs) 25 (inc) 18.6 95 (inc) [11.637]
1535 1047 0.06% 1.8% 4 Nd:YLF 20 (l) 23 (l) 285 640 (l) [11.638]
1560 1064 0.08% 1.7% 0.91 Nd:YAG 8 (abs) 4.2 (abs) 1.3 (abs) 80 (abs) [11.634]
1535 1064 880 ppm 7500 NA Nd:YAG 37 (abs) 27 (abs) NA NA [11.639]
1545.6 980/1480 NA NA 0.07 Laser diode 10 (l) 50 (l) 166 340 (l) [11.640]

a number of rare-earth ions at transitions in the wave- this wavelength range will be discussed at the end of the
length range beyond 3 µm and extending to 5 µm are section.
described. Introductions to the fields of mid-infrared solid-state
The aspects relevant to rare-earth-ion-doped mid- crystalline and fiber lasers can be found in [11.641]
infrared solid-state lasers, such as the competition and [11.642], respectively.
between radiative and multiphonon decay and the con-
sequent choice of host materials for these wavelengths Decay mechanisms, host materials,
will be introduced next. The performance of the most and thermal issues
important mid-infrared laser transitions in the wave- Here a few fundamental aspects of lasers are discussed
length range 2–3 µm will then be discussed in detail: with emphasis on their impact on mid-infrared solid-
Tm3+ -doped lasers at 1.9 µm and 2.3 µm, Ho3+ -doped state lasers.
lasers at 2.1 µm and 2.9 µm, Er3+ -doped lasers at
2.7–2.9 µm, and Dy3+ -doped lasers at 2.9–3.4 µm. Radiative versus multiphonon decay. The choice of
At wavelengths beyond 3 µm, it becomes increasingly host material for mid-infrared solid-state lasers involves
difficult to find suitable host materials for actively a number of considerations. The maximum phonon
doped laser systems. This statement holds true for glass energy is the most important aspect. The optical trans-
fibers in the same way as for crystalline materials. The parency range relates to both the size of the bandgap
prospects for future mid-infrared solid-state lasers in and also the infrared absorption cut-off, hence to the vi-
662 Part C Coherent and Incoherent Light Sources

brational frequency ν of the anion–cation bonds of the

Multiphonon relaxation rate (s–1)
material. For an ordered structure,
1 k 1011 Borate (1400 cm–1)
ν= , (11.89) 10 Posphate (1200 cm–1)
2π M 10
Silicate (1100 cm–1)
where M = m 1 m 2 /(m 1 + m 2 ) is the reduced mass for 8
Germanate (900 cm–1)
two bodies m 1 and m 2 vibrating with an elastic restoring 10 GLS (350 cm–1)
Part C 11.2

force k. The relative cation–anion bond strength is inti- Tellurite (700 cm–1)
10 6 ZBLA (500 cm–1)
mated by the field strength Z/r 2 , where Z is the valence
state of the cation or anion and r is the ionic radius. Gen- 10
erally, materials composed of large anions and cations 104
with low field strengths display high transparency in the 103
mid-infrared spectral region. 102
Radiative decay of excited states is in competition 101
2000 3000 4000 5000 6000 7000
with nonradiative multiphonon decay. The maximum Energy gap (cm–1)
phonon energy of the material sets the multiphonon re-
laxation rates, which influence the quantum efficiency. Fig. 11.67 Calculated and measured multiphonon relax-
The rate constant of a multiphonon relaxation process ation rates as a function of the energy gap between energy
decreases exponentially with the energy gap to the next levels for glasses with different maximum phonon energies.
lower-lying state and with the order of the process, i. e., (After [11.643, 644])
the number of phonons required to bridge the energy
gap [11.643, 646]. As an example, the multiphonon re- terials such as chlorides are required to ensure a long
9/2 lifetime in order to operate the 4.5 µm laser.
laxation rates for the common fiber glasses as a function 4I
of the energy gap between energy levels are shown in
Fig. 11.67. Host materials for mid-infrared lasers. Crystalline
The influence of multiphonon decay is stronger in oxide materials have been the laser host materials of
oxides than in fluorides because of the smaller atomic choice for several decades, as many oxide crystals are
mass m 2 of the anion and the larger elastic restoring comparatively easy to grow, environmentally stable,
force k (11.89), due to the stronger covalent bonds in ox- and possess high heat conductivities [11.647], frac-
ides [11.644], both resulting in larger maximum phonon ture limits, and refractive indices, the latter resulting
energies in oxides. Typically, nonradiative decay be- in large absorption and emission cross sections. Most
comes dominant if five or fewer phonons are required to prominent is Y3 Al5 O12 (YAG), together with other
bridge the energy gap [11.645]. Since an energy gap of
≈ 3300 cm−1 corresponds to a transition wavelength of
3 µm, radiative decay prevails for phonon energies below O2–, F –, Cl – O2–, F –, Cl –
≈ 600 cm−1 , which is roughly the maximum phonon I9/2 ô3 = 0.1 µs, 10 µs, 5 ms
energy of fluorides. Fluorides are, therefore, preferred 4.5 µm
over oxides as host materials for most mid-infrared laser I11/2 ô2 = 100 µs, 5 ms, 10 ms
transitions. Laser
In the example of Fig. 11.68, dominant laser (solid 2.8 µm
lines) and multiphonon (dotted lines) transitions from I13/2 ô1 = 5 ms, 10 ms, 15 ms
the three lowest-energy levels of Er3+ are indicated,
together with the corresponding lifetimes of the levels Laser
Pump 1.5 µm
in different classes of host materials. In high-phonon-
energy oxide host materials, only the 1.5 µm laser
transition possesses sufficiently high frequency and 4
large energy gap, resulting in a long 4 I13/2 lifetime. Er 3+
On the other hand, the 4 I11/2 lifetime is significantly
quenched by multiphonon relaxation and the 2.8 µm Fig. 11.68 Radiative and laser (solid lines) versus nonradia-
laser originating in this level is more easily operated tive (dotted lines) decay of the lowest three excited states of
in fluoride host materials. Finally, low-phonon host ma- Er3+ in oxide, fluoride, and chloride host materials [11.645]
Lasers and Coherent Light Sources 11.2 Solid-State Lasers 663

garnets, but in recent years materials such as mixed On the other hand, these materials provide phonon
garnets, the vanadates YVO4 and GdVO4 , the double energies in the range of 350–150 cm−1 [11.662]. Re-
tungstates KY(WO4 )2 and KGd(WO4 )2 , the sesquiox- cently, KPb2 Cl5 and related compounds have emerged
ides Y2 O3 , Sc2 O3 , and Lu2 O3 and others have shown as non-hygroscopic, hence promising candidates for
great promise for efficient lasing when doped with mid-infrared lasers [11.663–665]. Chalcogenide glasses
various rare-earth ions. Their performance decreases are composed of the chalcogen elements S, Se and
significantly when lasers are operated at wavelengths Te [11.666–668]. They are environmentally durable and

Part C 11.2
above ≈ 2.5–3 µm because of their high maximum have reasonably large glass-forming regions. When the
phonon energies (≈ 700–900 cm−1 ). Silicate glass is rare-earth ions are doped into these glasses [11.669],
perhaps the most important material used for optical the radiative transition probabilities and, therefore, the
fiber production [11.644, 648], however, in this material absorption and emission cross sections are high as a re-
the maximum phonon energy of ≈ 1100 cm−1 [11.649] sult of the high refractive index (≈ 2.6) of the glass
is even higher and has so far limited the emission wave- and the high degree of covalency of the rare-earth ion
length of mid-infrared fiber lasers using this material to with the surrounding medium. Maximum phonon en-
≈ 2.2 µm [11.650]. Silica is robust and involves the very ergies of 300–450 cm−1 [11.670] produce low rates
effective modified chemical vapor deposition (MCVD) of multiphonon relaxation (Fig. 11.67), and therefore
technique for fiber fabrication. Reducing the OH− con- high quantum efficiencies. The most important glasses
tent in the glass, which has two main absorption peaks are the sulfide glasses GaLaS (GLS) [11.671] and
in the range 1.3–2.0 µm [11.651], improves the near-to- GeGaS [11.672] because of the reasonably high rare-
mid-infrared utility. Rare-earth ions such as Nd3+ and earth solubility.
Er3+ which have high field strengths have low solubil- Studies into the use of ceramics as host mater-
ity in silicate glass, which can lead to clustering and ials for the rare-earths have recently made a lot of
microscale phase separation. progress [11.673]. These ceramics are composed of
The use of fluoride crystals and glasses as host ma- nanocrystallites of materials such as YAG and can
terials for mid-infrared solid-state lasers has found wide be produced in a simple cost-efficient process at rel-
acceptance. The heavy-metal fluorides [11.652,653] are atively low temperatures. This allows the fabrication
preferred as fiber materials, especially ZBLAN [11.654, of materials with very high melting points [11.674]
655], a mixture of 53 mol % ZrF4 , 20 mol % BaF2 , that are difficult to grow by other techniques such as
4 mol % LaF3 , 3 mol % AlF3 , and 20 mol % NaF. the Czochralski method. This class of materials is also
Since it can be readily drawn into single-mode optical available in a fiber geometry [11.675]. Ceramic fibers
fiber [11.656] it is particularly important to mid-infrared combine the characteristics of crystalline materials such
fiber lasers [11.657]. The large atomic weight of the as high absorption and emission cross sections, large
zirconium atom combined with relatively weak bond- thermal conductivity, and even the possibility of doping
ing provides a maximum phonon energy for ZBLAN with transition-metal ions [11.675] with the convenience
of ≈ 550 cm−1 [11.658] and allows for high infrared of guiding the pump and signal light in a fiber. While
transparency up to ≈ 6 µm. Multiphonon relaxation, bulk ceramics have already matured as laser host mater-
however, becomes significant for transitions at wave- ials, the losses of ceramic fibers are still comparatively
lengths longer than ≈ 3–3.5 µm. Compared to silica, high.
ZBLAN has a lower damage threshold. The crystal field
strength is also weaker [11.659]. An overview of the Specific aspects of operating mid-infrared lasers.
spectroscopic properties of rare-earth ions doped into As higher pump powers become available from laser-
ZBLAN is given in [11.658]. On the crystalline side, diode systems, it is generally recognized that thermal
the host materials LiYF4 , BaY2 F8 , and their respective and thermo-optical issues set limitations to the power
isostructural relatives have become the workhorses for scalability of end-pumped bulk laser systems. Owing to
many mid-infrared laser transitions [11.660, 661]. Be- the unfavorable temperature dependence of thermal and
cause of their fluoride content, these materials have to thermo-optical parameters [11.647], the large heat load
be grown under an atmosphere which excludes oxygen. in the crystal leads, firstly, to a significant temperature
Among the low-phonon host materials, many com- increase in the rod, secondly, to strong thermal lensing
pounds naturally possess low heat conductivity and are with pronounced spherical aberrations, and ultimately,
hygroscopic. This accounts for most of the halides, to rod fracture in a high-average-power end-pumped
with increasing hygroscopicity from chloride to iodide. system. Thermal management will be required when
664 Part C Coherent and Incoherent Light Sources

very high output powers are desired. In particular, for Thulium-doped solid-state lasers
high-power mid-infrared operation, thermal manage- at 1.9–2.0 µm and 2.3–2.5 µm
ment may be very important because of the decreased The use of the Tm3+ ion for mid-infrared solid-state
quantum efficiency and the consequently higher amount laser applications has been widespread, partly as a re-
of heat dissipation [11.676]. sult of the convenient absorption band near 0.79 µm,
Due to its geometry, the fiber provides potentially which allows for direct AlGaAs diode-laser pumping.
high pump and signal beam intensities without the draw- The primary luminescent transitions of Tm3+ relevant
Part C 11.2

backs of significant thermal and thermo-optical effects. to mid-infrared laser emission are the 3 F4 → 3 H5 tran-
Its large surface-area-to-volume ratio means that the heat sition at ≈ 2.3 µm and the 3 H4 → 3 H6 ground-state
generated from multiphonon relaxation in the core is transition at ≈ 1.9 µm; see the energy-level scheme in
dissipated effectively by radiation and convection from Fig. 11.69. The 3 F4 level is excited by the 0.79 µm pump
the outer surface of the fiber. This is especially true wavelength.
for single-clad, core-pumped single-mode fibers where
this ratio is highest [11.678]. The larger cladding area Three-level lasers at 1.9–2.0 µm. The first laser
(> 104 µm2 ) of double-clad fiber lasers allows for high- emission from Tm3+ ions was reported on the
power diode-array pumping [11.408, 679–682]. On the phonon-terminated 2 µm transition 3 H4 → 3 H6 in
other hand, double-clad fibers have a smaller surface- CaWO4 :Tm3+ in 1962 [11.611]. In 1975, pulsed
area-to-volume ratio and thermal issues need to be taken operation at room temperature was demonstrated
into account [11.683–685]. in Cr3+ -codoped YAG and YAlO3 [11.686]. Cr3+
While bulk crystalline mid-infrared lasers matured codoping allowed the experimentalist to improve the
already during the 1990s, the high costs of fabricating absorption of flashlamp or ion-laser pump light in
fibers with sufficiently low losses in the mid-infrared the visible spectral range by the active medium
region of the spectrum has impeded the necessary re- and subsequent energy transfer from Cr3+ to the
search efforts in the field of mid-infrared fiber lasers. Tm3+ lasing ions [11.687, 688]. The cross-relaxation
However, with the introduction of the double-clad fiber process (3 F4 , 3 H6 ) → (3 H4 , 3 H4 ) can transform one
and recent technological advances in the fields of pump photon absorbed in the 3 F4 or a higher-lying
fiber fabrication and beam-shaped high-power diode energy level into two excitations in the 3 H4 up-
lasers, the performance of diode-pumped fiber lasers per laser level of the 2 µm transition [11.616, 689]
has dramatically improved. Today, mid-infrared fiber (Fig. 11.69), thereby enhancing the quantum efficiency
lasers can compete with the corresponding bulk crys- of this laser by a factor of 2. Laser emission under
talline systems in certain applications, especially when diode pumping of the 3 F4 level at 780–790 nm was
fundamental-transverse-mode, CW laser operation at achieved in YAG in the late 1980s [11.690]. A single-
output powers in the milliwatt to the hundred watt range
is required.
A large number of techniques for pulsed operation F4 ô3 = 1.5 ms
including Q-switching and mode locking of fiber lasers Laser
have been explored. These techniques have been inves- 2.3 µm nr
tigated intensively for the common laser transitions at CR
1 µm in Nd3+ and Yb3+ , and at 1.5 µm in Er3+ , and 3
are usually described in combination with these lasers. nr
The small fiber size limits the peak power through the H4 ô1 = 6.8 ms
damage-threshold intensity (propagating power per core
area) and, hence, crystalline lasers in bulk geometries or GSA Laser
optical parametric processes are often preferred when 2 µm
high-energy short pulses are needed. This argument ac-
counts especially for mid-infrared ZBLAN-based fiber H6
lasers, because these fibers possess a lower damage
threshold compared to silica fibers. The description of Fig. 11.69 Partial energy-level scheme of Tm3+ display-
mid-infrared fiber lasers is, therefore, confined to CW ing the measured lifetimes when doped into fluoride
operation and specific techniques for pulsed operation glass [11.677], NR and CR represent nonradiative decay
of fiber lasers are not discussed in this chapter. and cross-relaxation, respectively
Lasers and Coherent Light Sources 11.2 Solid-State Lasers 665

frequency monolithic laser has also been reported in power under high-power diode side pumping [11.722],
YAG:Tm3+ [11.691]. and KY(WO4 )2 [11.723]. The latter laser has, as yet, not
Recently, 14 W, 18 W, and 36 W of output power shown a performance as good as for the same material
with high beam quality has been achieved with diode in bulk geometry [11.724] or in a waveguide geometry
pumping at room temperature in YAG:Tm3+ [11.692] but doped with Yb3+ and lasing at 1 µm [11.725]. Epi-
and in LiYF4 :Tm3+ in slab [11.693] and bulk [11.694] taxial layers of Tm:KLu(WO4 )2 /KLu(WO4 )2 have also
geometries, respectively. The latter approach could been operated with the laser cavity perpendicular to the

Part C 11.2
be scaled to 70 W, however currently with low layer in the 2 µm spectral range [11.726].
beam quality [11.695]. Two research groups reported The first explorations into fiber lasers utilizing
about 115 W and 120 W, respectively, of multi- the 1.9 µm ground-state transition related to the dye-
mode output power from diode-pumped YAG:Tm3+ laser pumping at 797 nm of a Tm3+ -doped silica
lasers [11.696, 697]. A microchip laser was demon- fiber laser [11.727]. Overlap of the main absorp-
strated in GdVO4 :Tm3+ [11.698]. A thin-disc laser has tion band with the emission wavelength of AlGaAs
also been demonstrated in YAG [11.699]. diode lasers quickly resulted in diode-laser pumping
The large degree of Stark splitting of the 3 H6 of these fiber lasers based on either silica [11.728]
ground state, combined with vibronic broadening of or fluoride [11.729] glass hosts. The cross-relaxation
the spectrum [11.700], provides the 3 H4 → 3 H6 tran- process (3 F4 , 3 H6 ) → (3 H4 , 3 H4 ) and enhancement of
sition with a very broad emission, spanning ≈ 400 nm excited ions in the 3 H4 upper laser level of the
in many hosts, which represents one of the broadest 2 µm transition (Fig. 11.69), is highly dependent on
luminescent transitions available from any rare-earth the overall concentration of Tm3+ ions and competi-
ion. Accordingly, its tunability is rather large, ranging tion from multiphonon relaxation from the 3 F4 level.
from 1.87–2.16 µm in YAG [11.701], 1.84–2.14 µm Although generally high concentrations of Tm3+ in
in YSGG [11.701], 1.93–2.00 µm in YAlO3 [11.702], low-phonon-energy glasses enable full exploitation of
1.93–2.09 µm in Y2 O3 [11.703], 1.93–2.16 µm in this beneficial process, it has been shown recently that
Sc2 O3 [11.703], 1.83–1.97 µm in CaF2 [11.704], this cross-relaxation process is resonant in a silica host
1.91–2.07 µm in LiYF4 [11.693], 1.85–2.06 µm in and hence only moderate (2–3 wt %) Tm3+ ion con-
BaY2 F8 [11.705], 1.86–1.99 µm in GdVO4 [11.706], centrations are required to maximize the benefits of
1.84–1.95 µm in LuVO4 [11.707], 1.79–2.04 µm cross-relaxation [11.730].
in KGd(WO4 )2 [11.708], and 1.81–2.03 µm in Also in fibers, the broad emission spectrum
NaGd(WO4 )2 [11.709]. As for many other transitions, allows a large degree of wavelength tunabil-
shifts in the center emission wavelength can be achieved ity [11.731]. Recently, tuning ranges of 230 nm
by substitution of host ions, e.g., from Y3 Al5 O12 to from 1.86–2.09 µm [11.732] and 250 nm from
Lu3 Al5 O12 [11.710]. The vanadate crystals GdVO4 and 1.72–1.97 µm [11.733] have been demonstrated. Since
YVO4 as well as double tungstates possess compara- the Tm3+ 1.9 µm transition can be favorably oper-
tively high absorption coefficients [11.698, 711, 712], ated in silica fiber (with its higher peak-power damage
allowing pumping also at 805–810 nm, where cheaper threshold compared to ZBLAN fiber), pulses in the
and more-reliable pump diodes than at 780–790 nm range of 190–500 fs have been obtained in additive-
are available. Exploiting the large gain bandwidth, pulse [11.734] or passive [11.735] mode-locking
mode-locked operation of Tm3+ 2 µm lasers with pulse arrangements using this broad emission spectrum. The
durations of 35 ps and 41 ps has been reported in smaller emission cross section and the three-level nature
YAG:Tm3+ [11.713] and YAG:Cr3+ ,Tm3+ [11.714], re- of the laser transition resulted in higher pump thresholds
spectively. Actively [11.715, 716] or passively [11.717] compared to standard Nd3+ -doped silica fiber lasers. Re-
Q-switched laser operation is useful in micro- absorption from the ground state of the Tm3+ ion has
surgery [11.718]. to be overcome because the ground-state multiplet is
Recent progress in the fields of crystalline epitax- the lower laser level. Reducing the population of the
ial growth and in-bulk refractive-index modification higher Stark levels of the ground state by cooling the
processes in glasses and crystals has enabled novel fiber causes emission at shorter wavelengths. Tunabil-
solid-state lasers in the waveguide geometry [11.719]. ity to longer wavelengths can be obtained by variation
As one of the results, Tm3+ waveguide lasers at of the fiber length because of the increased level of re-
2 µm have also been demonstrated in lead germanate absorption by the ground state with longer lengths of
glass [11.720], YAG [11.721] with up to 15 W of output fiber [11.736].
666 Part C Coherent and Incoherent Light Sources

Early power-scaling experiments involved the use Four-level lasers at 2.3–2.5 µm. The mid-infrared
of the convenient 1.064 µm YAG:Nd3+ laser which four-level CW laser at ≈ 2.3 µm on the transition
core-pumped the short-wavelength side of the 3 H5 3 F → 3 H has been operated in GSGG:Tm3+ and
4 5
level [11.737]. Pumping the long-wavelength side of the LiYF4 :Tm3+ , with wavelength tunability ranging from
3 H level with a high-power 1.319 µm YAG:Nd3+ laser 2.2–2.37 µm [11.748] and 2.2–2.46 µm [11.749], re-
also yielded efficient output [11.738]. In-band pump- spectively. This laser operates best at low Tm3+
ing of the transition at 1.57 µm in silica [11.739] and concentrations of < 2 at % in order to avoid the afore-
Part C 11.2

at 1.58–1.60 µm in fluoride glass [11.740, 741] has mentioned cross-relaxation, which in this case would
also been demonstrated. Whilst theoretical modeling of depopulate the upper laser level (Fig. 11.69). The life-
Tm3+ -doped silica fiber lasers [11.742] indicates that time of the lower laser level of the 3 F4 → 3 H5 transition
in-band pumping is the most efficient pump method is quite short and leads to a low pump threshold.
for silica-based fiber lasers because of the high Stokes Doping Tm3+ ions into a ZBLAN fiber offers an
efficiency, nevertheless, the wide availability of high- increased quantum efficiency of the 3 F4 level [11.750–
power AlGaAs diode lasers at 790–800 nm and the 752]. Deliberately designing the fiber to have a relatively
strong level of cross-relaxation in Tm3+ -doped silica low Tm3+ -ion concentration reduces cross-relaxation
means that such diode-cladding-pumped systems in both and hence severe lifetime quenching of the 3 F4 level.
standing-wave [11.736,743] and ring-resonator [11.744] The tunability extends from 2.25 µm to 2.5 µm [11.677].
arrangements are perhaps the most practical ways of Simultaneous lasing on the 3 H4 → 3 H6 transition at
producing high output power from this ion (Fig. 11.70). 1.9 µm produces a two-color fiber laser [11.753].
With Yb3+ sensitization and pumping at 975 nm, 75 W Applications requiring highly efficient output or multi-
of output power has been demonstrated [11.745]. Cur- mid-infrared-wavelength output will benefit from the
rently, the Tm3+ -doped silica fiber laser is the most use of Tm3+ -doped ZBLAN fibers.
mature of the mid-infrared fiber-laser systems pri-
marily because of the robustness and convenience Holmium-doped solid-state lasers at 2.1 µm
offered by the silica glass host. The maximum out- and 2.9 µm
put power from high-power Tm3+ -doped fiber lasers The use of the Ho3+ ion as the active dopant for
is now ≈ 85 W [11.743], which is comparable to the solid-state lasers opens up a number of very useful
equivalent diode-pumped Tm3+ -doped crystalline laser mid-infrared transitions. In this section, we will con-
systems [11.697]. centrate on the 5 I7 → 5 I8 ground-state transition at
≈ 2.1 µm and the 5 I6 → 5 I7 transition at ≈ 2.9 µm; see
the energy-level scheme in Fig. 11.71. One of the sig-
Output power (W) nificant shortcomings of Ho3+ , however, is the lack of
14 1.8 wt % Tm3+
12 3.6 mol % Tm3+, 0.4 mol % Ho3+ 5
2.2 wt % Tm3+ 3.2 µm 5
10 F5
8 3 I4
Laser I5
CR 3.9 µm 5
H5 I6
4 Laser
3 2.9 µm
2 H4 5
0 10 20 30 40 50 GSA Laser
Incident pump power (W) 2.1 µm

Fig. 11.70 Measured output powers from diode-cladding- 3 5

H6 I8
pumped fiber lasers using 1.8 wt % Tm3+ -doped sil- Tm3+ Ho3+
ica [11.735], 2.2 wt % Tm3+ -doped silica [11.746],
and 3.6 mol % Tm3+ , 0.4 mol % Ho3+ -doped fluoride Fig. 11.71 Partial energy-level scheme of Ho3+ with a Tm3+
glass [11.747] sensitizer. ET represents energy transfer
Lasers and Coherent Light Sources 11.2 Solid-State Lasers 667

ground-state-absorption (GSA) transitions [11.754] that which provide an inhomogeneously broadened, and
overlap with convenient high-power pump sources. As therefore smoother, gain shape, a pulse duration as
a result, many of the early demonstrations of Ho3+ - short as 25 ps could be achieved [11.776]. Q-switched
doped room-temperature crystalline CW lasers [11.616] laser operation [11.781–783] has been investigated and
involved sensitizing with Tm3+ in order to access the applied for microsurgery [11.784].
convenient absorption bands and the practical cross- Besides the cross-relaxation and energy-transfer
relaxation process Tm3+ provides, as we have discussed processes shown in Fig. 11.71, several other energy-

Part C 11.2
in Sect. 11.3.1. Energy migration amongst the Tm3+ transfer processes can occur in Tm3+ ,Ho3+ -codoped
ions and a suitable Tm3+ :Ho3+ concentration ratio materials [11.785–789], thereby making the system
ensures that efficient energy transfer to Ho3+ takes rather complex and introducing parasitic processes
place [11.755, 756] (Fig. 11.71). which can deplete the Ho3+ 5 I7 upper laser level,
increase the laser threshold, and diminish the laser ef-
Three-level lasers at 2.1 µm. The 2 µm transition ficiency. Rather than codoping the host with Tm3+
5 I → 5 I in Ho3+ ions was first demonstrated as a laser ions and exciting the Ho3+ ions via nonradiative en-
7 8
in CaWO4 :Ho3+ in 1962 [11.612] and in Tm3+-codoped ergy transfer from the Tm3+ ions, one can directly
CaWO4 :Ho3+ in 1963 [11.757]. In 1971, pulsed op- pump the Ho3+ 5 I7 upper laser level at 1.9 µm using
eration at room temperature on this three-level laser laser diodes [11.790], the output from a 1.9 µm Tm3+
transition was demonstrated in LiYF4 [11.758]. CW laser [11.791], which provided up to 15 W [11.792] and
laser emission was achieved under Kr+ -laser pumping in 19 W [11.694] output power from Ho3+ , or a MgF2 :Co
Cr3+ ,Tm3+ -codoped YSAG:Ho3+ and YSGG:Ho3+ in laser [11.793]. This approach ensures a low quantum
1986 [11.759]. Like in 2 µm Tm3+ lasers (Sect. 11.3.1), defect and, hence, low heat generation in the laser crys-
the Cr3+ codopant served as a sensitizer for the ab- tal. This scheme was proven very successful by the use
sorption of pump light in the visible spectral range and of a high-power Tm3+ fiber laser as the pump source,
excitation of Tm3+ ions by energy transfer. The subse- providing 6.4 W of output power and a slope efficiency
quent excitation of Ho3+ ions by energy transfer from of 80% versus incident pump power at 1.9 µm [11.794].
Tm3+ [11.760, 761] profits from the same Tm3+ -Tm3+ Also an efficient 2 µm Ho3+ single-frequency ring laser
cross-relaxation as described for 2 µm Tm3+ lasers in has been demonstrated in this way [11.795].
Sect. 11.3.1 (Fig. 11.71). In the 1980s, laser emission The first fiber laser configuration making use of
at 2.1 µm in Ho3+ under diode pumping of the Tm3+ this transition employed ZBLANP glass (a variant of
3 F level at 780–790 nm with pump thresholds as low ZBLAN) and argon-ion pumping [11.796]. A year later,
as 5 mW was achieved in YAG [11.762–764]. Com- this was followed by the demonstration of an argon-ion-
pact, monolithic, low-threshold laser devices can be pumped Ho3+ -doped silica fiber laser [11.797]. In both
achieved in this way [11.765]. Besides many differ- cases, the fiber was singly doped with Ho3+ , the out-
ent garnet crystal systems, LiYF4 also regained interest put power < 1 mW, and each needed a relatively high
as a host material for CW diode-pumped 2 µm Ho3+ pump power to reach laser threshold. Improvements in
lasers around 1990 [11.766, 767]. An Yb3+ -codoped, the output power and efficiency have been made recently
diode-pumped Ho3+ laser at 2.1 µm has also been with Yb3+ -doped silica fiber laser pumping of the 5 I6
demonstrated [11.768]. Noise suppression [11.769,770], level [11.798]; however, the output power had only in-
amplitude and frequency stabilization [11.771–773] of creased to 280 mW because the pump fiber laser was
2 µm Ho3+ lasers have been investigated. operated at the low-efficiency 1150 nm wavelength. Us-
Attempts to exploit the rather large gain band- ing the pump wavelength of 1100 nm, which is more
width of Ho3+ near 2.0–2.1 µm by tuning the emission optimal with respect to the operation of an Yb3+ -doped
wavelength were reported in the early 1990s [11.774, silica fiber laser, the output power has been increased by
775]. Nowadays, tuning ranges of > 80 nm are approximately an order of magnitude [11.799].
achieved in host materials such as mixed YSGG:GSAG As mentioned above, a practical method of ef-
[11.776], BaY2 F8 :Ho3+ [11.777], and KYF4 [11.778]. ficiently generating laser emission on the 5 I7 → 5 I8
Mode-locking experiments have resulted in 800 ps, transition is to codope Ho3+ laser ions with Tm3+ sen-
370 ps, and 70 ps pulse durations, obtained in sitizer ions. The first demonstration of a fiber laser
YAG:Cr3+ ,Tm3+ ,Ho3+ [11.714], LiYF4 :Tm3+ ,Ho3+ operating with the Tm3+ ,Ho3+ system occurred in
[11.779], and BaY2 F8 :Tm3+ ,Ho3+ [11.780], respective- 1991 [11.800] when 250 mW was generated at a slope
ly. In mixed crystals of YSGG:GSAG:Cr3+ ,Tm3+ ,Ho3+ , efficiency of 52% from a Ti:sapphire-pumped fluoride
668 Part C Coherent and Incoherent Light Sources

fiber laser. A year later [11.801], this work was followed pumped crystalline lasers for the generation of 2.9 µm
by an increase in the Tm3+ concentration to improve output [11.809]. Recent reports on this transition include
cross-relaxation and resulted in a higher slope efficiency laser investigations of YAlO3 :Ho3+ [11.810], diode-
being obtained. Demonstration of a Tm3+ ,Ho3+ -doped pumped Yb3+ -codoped YGSS:Ho3+ with 10 mJ output
silica fiber laser soon followed [11.802, 803]; how- energy [11.811], and Cr3+ ,Yb3+ -codoped YGSS:Ho3+
ever, owing to lower Tm3+ concentrations which forces tunable in the range 2.84–3.05 µm [11.812] and in Q-
weaker cross-relaxation, significantly lower slope ef- switched operation [11.813]. Since the 5 I7 lower laser
Part C 11.2

ficiencies were measured, especially when pumped at level is a metastable excited state with a longer lifetime
1.064 µm [11.804]. When the concentrations are in- than the 5 I6 upper laser level, it is difficult to achieve
creased and the double-clad pump arrangement used, CW inversion on this transition. Cascade lasing on the
a significant augmentation of the output power to 5 I → 5 I and 5 I → 5 I transitions at 3 and 2 µm, re-
6 7 7 8
5.4 W has been demonstrated [11.805]. To date, the spectively [11.814, 815], may help to deplete the 5 I7
highest output power of 8.8 W from a fiber laser operat- level radiatively, i. e., without significant heat genera-
ing on the 5 I7 → 5 I8 transition has been produced by tion. Passive Q-switching of this transition has also been
a diode-cladding-pumped Tm3+ ,Ho3+ -doped fluoride demonstrated [11.813].
fiber laser [11.747] (Fig. 11.70). In an analogous way The combined effect of the infrared absorption
to recent demonstrations in bulk laser systems, tandem- cut-off wavelength of ≈ 2.5 µm for pure silica glass
pumping Ho3+ with a separate Tm3+ laser operating and the strong multiphonon relaxation quenching of
at 1.9 µm may also prove effective in fibers, because it mid-infrared transitions of rare-earth ions in this host
similarly exploits the cross-relaxation process between means that four-level fiber lasers operating on the
Tm3+ ions but avoids any ETU between Ho3+ ions in 5 I → 5 I transition at ≈ 2.9 µm have only involved
6 7
the 5 I7 upper laser level and excited Tm3+ ions [11.789]. fluoride glass as the host material. The first demon-
When sensitizing with Yb3+ ions, a Ho3+ -doped silica stration of a fiber laser using this transition [11.816]
fiber laser at 2.1 µm has been shown [11.806] to operate produced only ≈ 13 mW when pumped at a wavelength
at moderate efficiency levels despite the fact that the en- of 640 nm. High-power cascade lasing at 2.9 µm and
ergy transfer from Yb3+ to Ho3+ is quite nonresonant 2.1 µm has been employed to extend the output power
(Fig. 11.72). to 1.3 W [11.817] by removing bottlenecking at the 5 I7
level [11.807] via the second laser transition at 2.1 µm.
Four-level lasers at 2.9 µm. Laser emission at the In an analogous manner to the Er3+ -doped fluoride
transition 5 I6 → 5 I7 near 3 µm in an Ho3+ -doped crys- glass system discussed below, the most successful ar-
tal was demonstrated in 1976 [11.808]. Sensitizing rangement to date for extracting high power from this
Ho3+ with Yb3+ ions (see the energy-level scheme transition has involved the use of Pr3+ as a desensi-
in Fig. 11.72) in order to exploit the more-favorable tizer for the 5 I7 energy level: a maximum output power
absorption features of Yb3+ has been used in diode- of 2.5 W was produced when the pump wavelength
of 1100 nm from a Yb3+ -doped silica fiber laser was
used [11.818].
I5 An Yb3+ -sensitized Ho3+ -doped ZBLAN fiber
F5/2 could be directly pumped with diode lasers and may
I6 efficiently provide high-power 2.9 µm output without
ô2 = 3.5 ms Laser the costly requirement of an intermediate laser system.
2.9 µm
GSA 5 Initial spectroscopic results look encouraging [11.819],
ô1 = 12 ms however, the many excited ion interactions that a fluoride
Laser host provides may be problematic. A recent demonstra-
2.1 µm tion has shown that ion–ion interactions (specifically
ETU) in Ho3+ -doped fluoride glass are critical to the
2 5
production of 2.9 µm output from singly Ho3+ -doped
F7/2 I8
fluoride glass fiber lasers [11.820].
Yb3+ Ho3+

Fig. 11.72 Partial energy-level scheme of Ho3+ with Yb3+ Erbium-doped solid-state lasers at 2.7–2.9 µm
sensitizer displaying the measured lifetimes of Ho3+ when For a long time, the development of erbium lasers op-
doped into fluoride glass host [11.807] erating on the 4 I11/2 → 4 I13/2 transition near 3 µm was
Lasers and Coherent Light Sources 11.2 Solid-State Lasers 669

dominated by crystalline systems. The early success of

the erbium 3 µm crystal laser has given rise to a signifi- a) b)
4 –17 3 –1
F7/2 W (10 cm s ), Ratio
cant amount of spectroscopic investigations. This has led 2 10
to a deep understanding of the rather complex population 4
S3/2 9
mechanisms of this laser system and to the development ETU2 CR 8 W11
of a large number of suitable host materials. 4 7 W22
6 Ratio

Part C 11.2
Crystalline lasers. The first observation of coherent 4
I9/2 4
emission near 3 µm from erbium ions was reported 3
4 Laser
in 1967 [11.613]. Yttrium aluminum garnet (YAG) I11/2 2
was demonstrated as a host for the erbium 3 µm ETU2
laser [11.822] in 1975. In 1983, the first CW lasing near 0
I13/2 0 5 10 15
3 µm was obtained in this material [11.823]. At about 20 –3
Erbium concentration (10 cm )
the same time, it was established [11.824–827] that en-
ergy transfer processes [11.828] between neighboring Pump ETU1 CR
erbium ions in the host lattice play an important role
in this laser system. Energy transfer processes can be- 4
come very efficient at high excitation density [11.829] 3+
and govern the population mechanisms of the 3 µm
laser at high erbium concentration. In the energy-level Fig. 11.73 (a) Partial energy-level scheme of erbium indicating the
scheme of Fig. 11.73a, the important ETU and cross- pump and laser transitions, ETU1 from 4 I13/2 , ETU2 from 4 I11/2 , and
relaxation processes are introduced. The ETU process cross-relaxation (CR) from the thermally coupled 4 S3/2 and 2 H11/2
(4 I13/2 , 4 I13/2 ) → (4 I15/2 , 4 I9/2 ) leads to a fast deple- levels. (b) Macroscopic parameters of ETU1 from 4 I13/2 (W11 ) and
tion of the lower laser level and enables CW operation ETU2 from 4 I11/2 (W22 ) and the ratio W11 /W22 in ZBLAN:Er3+
of a laser transition which, otherwise, could be self- bulk glasses. (After [11.821])
terminating owing to the unfavorable lifetime ratio of
the upper compared to the lower laser level. The ETU given by [11.831]
process from 4 I13/2 can be so dominant that even under  
direct pumping of the 4 I13/2 lower laser level and subse- ln(1 − T ) b21 W22
ηsl = ηSt 2− 2 ,
quent excitation of the 4 I11/2 upper laser level by ETU, ln[(1 − T )(1 − L)] b2 W11
3 µm laser operation was demonstrated in several host (11.91)
materials [11.830].
This ETU process offers another great advantage. with T the transmission of the out-coupling mirror, L
Half of the ions that undergo this process are upcon- the internal resonator losses, and bi and Wii , the Boltz-
verted to the 4 I9/2 level and, by subsequent multiphonon mann factors and ETU parameters of the upper (i = 2)
relaxation, are recycled to the 4 I11/2 upper laser level and lower (i = 1) laser levels, respectively. If ETU oc-
from where they can each emit a second laser photon, curs only from the lower laser level, i. e., W22 = 0, we
for a single pump-photon absorption. For a large number obtain the predicted factor of two increase in slope ef-
of ions participating in this process, a slope efficiency ficiency from (11.91). The slope efficiency is reduced,
ηsl of twice the Stokes efficiency ηSt = λpump /λlaser however, by the resonator losses, the imperfect mode
is obtained [11.831], because the quantum efficiency overlap, and the ETU process from the upper laser level
ηQE = n laser /n pump of pump photons converted to laser in the case of W22 > 0. In the investigated host mater-
photons increases from 1 to 2 (λ and n are the ials, the parameters Wii of both ETU processes increase
wavelengths and photon numbers of laser and pump with increasing erbium concentration because of the in-
transitions, respectively): fluence of energy migration within the erbium 4 I11/2 and
13/2 levels on ETU. The slope efficiency of (11.91) is
ηsl = ηQE ηSt = 2ηSt . (11.90) optimum for a maximum ratio W1 /W2 . Spectroscopy of
these processes in crystal hosts and laser experiments
This is illustrated in Fig. 11.74. revealed that the maximum ratio is obtained at dopant
In a simple rate-equation system which includes the concentrations of ≈ 12–15% in BaY2 F8 [11.832, 833],
processes shown in Fig. 11.73a the slope efficiency is ≈ 15% in LiYF4 [11.661], ≈ 30% in YSGG [11.834],
670 Part C Coherent and Incoherent Light Sources

pared to fluoride host materials because of the larger

F9/2 maximum phonon energies in oxides. With an energy
gap between the 4 I11/2 upper and 4 I13/2 lower laser lev-
100 % 50 % 25 % 13 % = çpump els of ≈ 3400–3500 cm−1 , the radiative decay becomes
I 9/2
dominant for phonon energies below ≈ 550 cm−1 . Since
I11/2 a long lifetime of the 4 I11/2 upper laser level provides
a small pump threshold, fluorides are preferable host
Part C 11.2

Laser materials [11.843] for this laser transition if the pump

I13/2 power is not many times above threshold.
1.0 1.5 1.75 1.83 ... 2 = çQE In the 1980s and 1990s, numerous host materials
were investigated for CW and pulsed laser operation of
GSA ETU1 ETU1 ETU1 Er3+ in the 2.7–2.9 µm region. A major role was played
by the family of garnet crystals YAG, YSGG, YSAG,
YGG, and GGG [11.615, 844, 845]. In the early years,
I15/2 Cr3+ codoping was used in order to improve the absorp-
tion of broadband flashlamp pump light in the visible
Fig. 11.74 Partial energy-level scheme of erbium illustrat- spectral range and transfer the absorbed energy from
ing the process of energy recycling from the lower to Cr3+ to Er3+ . Typical output characteristics obtained
the upper laser level by ETU. Indicated are the relative were 2.7 W average power at a pump energy of 5 J with
pump rate ηp of the upper laser level and the quantum effi- a repetition rate of 10 Hz [11.845]. Doping levels up to
ciency ηQE which increases from 1 to 2 if a large number 100% substitution of Y3+ by Er3+ were tested [11.846].
of ions participate in the process. (After [11.836]) A new class of host materials, fluoride crystals such as
LiYF4 , BaY2 F8 , and others, became of importance in
and ≈ 50% in Y3 Al5 O12 [11.835]. A trend in this se- the late 1980s [11.847–850]. Laser thresholds as low
ries is the increase of the optimum erbium concentration as 5 mW were obtained under CW excitation by diode
with phonon energy of the host material. lasers [11.849].
Energy recycling by ETU is the most efficient In recent years, researchers have obtained CW and
way to operate a CW erbium laser near 3 µm. The quasi-CW diode-pumped output power levels exceeding
highest slope efficiency obtained experimentally is cur- 1 W at 3 µm from fluoride [11.661] and oxide [11.851–
rently 50% in LiYF4 :15% Er3+ [11.837]. The pump 853] crystalline host materials. A significant problem in
wavelength that provides the highest Stokes efficiency the energy-recycling regime is increased heat genera-
of ηSt = λpump /λlaser = 35% is 980 nm, which cor- tion due to the multiphonon relaxation 4 I9/2 → 4 I11/2
responds to pumping directly into the upper laser that follows each ETU process from the lower laser
level [11.838] (Fig. 11.73a). The highest slope efficiency level [11.676]. Glass bulk materials [11.854] suffer from
obtained experimentally [11.837] is currently ηsl = 50% the same thermal and thermo-optical drawbacks as the
in LiYF4 :15% Er3+ . This result shows that energy re- crystalline bulk materials, with even decreased thermal
cycling is indeed efficient and that slope efficiencies conductivity in the glass. A possible solution is diode
far above the Stokes efficiency can be obtained under side pumping, which leads to lower excitation den-
CW pumping. Under quasi-CW excitation, the slope ef- sities and correspondingly weaker ETU processes, as
ficiency is strongly reduced [11.839], because the lower well as better heat removal in the slab geometry. The
laser level is much less populated than in the steady- highest output powers of 1.8 W and later 4 W from an
state regime and ETU is less efficient [11.840, 841]. erbium 3 µm crystal laser [11.855, 856] have been ob-
Other operational regimes which deplete the lower laser tained in this way. A reduced erbium concentration with
level without recycling the energy to the upper laser correspondingly smaller parameters of the ETU pro-
level are less efficient. Consequently, neither co-lasing cesses may aid this approach. However, the efficiency
at the 1.6 µm transition from the lower laser level to the of the energy-recycling regime cannot be reached in this
ground state [11.842] nor energy transfer from the er- approach.
bium lower laser level to a rare-earth codopant [11.660] Other special configurations include the operation
have reached the efficiency of the recycling regime. of Er3+ -doped YAG, GGG, and YSGG lasers in mono-
Lifetime quenching of the 4 I11/2 upper laser level lithic cavities with output powers up to 0.5 W and
by multiphonon relaxation is stronger in oxide com- tunable single-frequency output [11.857] as well as mi-
Lasers and Coherent Light Sources 11.2 Solid-State Lasers 671

crolasers in YSGG [11.858]. Pulsed output at 3 µm has see the measured GSA and ESA cross sections in
been generated from erbium-doped crystalline mater- Fig. 11.75a. Depletion of the lower laser level by ESA
ials in many configurations and regimes, e.g., under favorably results in a redistribution of its population den-
quasi-CW pumping [11.839, 841], active [11.859–868] sity and overcomes the bottleneck that results from the
and passive [11.869–872] Q-switching, and mode- long lower-level lifetime. However, slope efficiencies
locking [11.619, 869, 873]. obtained in this way were < 15%. Moreover, satura-
tion of the output power at 2.7 µm was observed and

Part C 11.2
Fiber lasers. The erbium-doped fluoride fiber represents the highest reported output powers were in the 20 mW
a promising alternative for the construction of a com- region [11.887, 888]. The excitation of the metastable
3/2 level (lifetime ≈ 580 µs [11.821]) led to inversion
pact and efficient all-solid-state laser emitting at the 4S
transition at 3 µm. Due to its geometry, the fiber pro- with respect to the 4 I13/2 level. A second laser transi-
vides large flexibility and potentially high pump and tion at 850 nm repopulated the 4 I13/2 lower laser level of
signal beam intensities without the drawbacks of ther- the 2.7 µm transition (Fig. 11.75b), causing the 2.7 µm
mal and thermo-optical effects. The first erbium 3 µm laser to saturate at low output powers [11.885]. Sig-
fiber laser was demonstrated in 1988 [11.875]. Single- nificant improvement in the performance of this laser
mode [11.876] and diode-pumped [11.877] operation system was obtained by deliberately operating a third
were demonstrated shortly afterwards. Although the life- laser transition 4 S3/2 → 4 I9/2 at 1.7 µm, thereby sup-
time of the 4 I13/2 lower laser level exceeds that of the pressing the competitive laser at 850 nm and recycling
11/2 upper laser level, CW lasing can be obtained the excitation energy accumulated in the 4 S3/2 level into
on this four-level-laser transition in ZBLAN (but also the upper laser level; see the energy-level scheme in
in fluoride crystals, see the paragraph on crystalline Fig. 11.75b. The slope efficiency of the 2.7 µm transi-
lasers) without employing special techniques to depop- tion increased significantly to 23% [11.889], close to the
ulate the 4 I13/2 lower laser level, because the lower Stokes efficiency limit of 29% under 800 nm pumping.
laser level is not fed significantly by luminescent de- An output power of 150 mW was demonstrated ex-
cay or multiphonon relaxation from the upper laser perimentally [11.889]. Also a three-transition-cascade
level [11.878]. In addition, the Stark splitting of the laser
levels contributes to population inversion, because the
laser transition occurs between a low-lying Stark com- a) b)
–22 2
óESA (10 cm ) 4
ponent of the upper and a high-lying Stark component 24 4
of the lower laser level [11.836]. During the relaxation 4 4 ô5 = 580 µs
20 I15/2 S3/2 Laser Laser
oscillations at the onset of lasing, a red-shift of the las- 4
I13/2 1.7 µm 850 nm
16 4 4
ing wavelength is often observed in erbium 3 µm laser I11/2 F9/2
12 ESA
systems [11.879–882], because the excitation energy is 4
accumulated in the long-lived 4 I13/2 lower laser level and 8
the character of the lasing process changes from four- I11/2 ô2 = 6.9 ms
4 Laser
level to three-level lasing [11.836]. For the same reason, 0 2.7 µm
the tunability range of a 3 µm CW laser [11.883] is 780 790 800 810 820 830 840 4
I13/2 ô1 = 9 ms
Wavelength (nm)
narrowed and red-shifted with increasing pump power.
Pump excited-state absorption (ESA), which is
present in Er3+ at almost all available GSA wave- 4
lengths [11.884], has a major influence on the 3+
performance of low-doped, core-pumped erbium 2.7 µm
ZBLAN fiber lasers because of the significant amount Fig. 11.75 (a) Absorption cross sections in ZBLAN:Er3+ near
of ground-state bleaching and excitation of the laser lev- 800 nm: GSA 4 I15/2 → 4 I9/2 and ESA 4 I13/2 → 2 H11/2 , 4 I11/2 →
3/2 , and I11/2 → F5/2 (After [11.874]). (b) Partial energy-
els under these conditions [11.885]. Pumping at 980 nm 4F 4 4

directly into the upper laser level provides the highest level scheme of erbium indicating the processes relevant to the
Stokes efficiency of ηSt = λpump /λlaser = 35% [11.838]. ZBLAN:Er3+ cascade laser: lower loop with GSA to 4 I9/2 , mul-
However, ESA at 980 nm from the 4 I11/2 upper laser tiphonon relaxation, laser transition at 2.7 µm, luminescent decay,
level [11.886] is detrimental to lasing. Experimentally, and upper loop with ESA to 2 H11/2 , thermal relaxation, laser tran-
the best pump wavelength [11.885] is near 792 nm, at the sition at 1.7 µm, multiphonon relaxation, laser transition at 2.7 µm.
peak of ESA from the 4 I13/2 lower laser level [11.874]; Competitive lasing at 850 nm is suppressed in the cascade regime
672 Part C Coherent and Incoherent Light Sources

lasing regime with additional lasing at the transition similarly preventing energy recycling by ETU [11.896].
13/2 → I15/2 near 1.6 µm was demonstrated [11.890].
4I 4 Each pump photon can at best produce one laser pho-
In ZBLAN fibers with higher dopant concentra- ton in the Er3+ ,Pr3+ -codoped system. The theoretical
tions of typically 1–5 mol % (≈ 1.6–8 × 1020 cm−3 ) and limit of the slope efficiency is given by the Stokes
with the double-clad geometry, ESA is much less efficiency, which is 29% under 800 nm pumping. Ex-
important, because the reduced pump intensity with perimentally, a slope efficiency of 17% and an output
low-brightness diode lasers leads to smaller excita- power of 1.7 W were obtained [11.891] (Fig. 11.76b).
Part C 11.2

tion densities. Currently, the most successful approach Other researchers [11.897] reported output powers of
towards a high-power erbium 2.7 µm fiber laser is 660 mW. Since ESA from both laser levels is negligible,
codoping of the fiber with Pr3+ [11.891, 892]. This idea the system can alternatively be pumped near 980 nm,
was reported already in [11.887, 893, 894] and was pro- which provides a Stokes efficiency of 35%. In this way,
posed for the double-clad fiber laser in [11.895]. In the experimental slope efficiency could be increased to
this approach, the Er3+ 2.7 µm transition is operated 25% [11.898]. With improvements in diode-laser tech-
as a simple four-level laser; see the energy-level scheme nology and an optimized fiber design, an output power
in Fig. 11.76a. The 4 I13/2 lower laser level is depopu- of 5.4 W at 2.7 µm with a slope efficiency of 21% could
lated by the energy transfer process ET1 to the Pr3+ recently be demonstrated from an Er3+ ,Pr3+ -codoped
codopant and fast decay to the ground state by mul- ZBLAN fiber laser [11.892, 899].
tiphonon relaxation within Pr3+ . The energy-transfer The first steps toward pulsed output from erbium
process ET2 from the 4 I11/2 upper laser level to the Pr3+ 3 µm ZBLAN lasers [11.882, 900, 901] were unsatisfac-
codopant is weak [11.821]. The strong lifetime quench- tory in terms of output energies and average powers.
ing of the 4 I13/2 lower laser level significantly reduces There have also been attempts to operate the ZBLAN
ground-state bleaching and excitation of the laser lev- fiber laser in the energy-recycling regime. The pa-
els, thus making the influence of ESA negligible, but rameters Wii of both ETU processes in ZBLAN bulk
glasses [11.821] versus Er3+ concentration are shown in
Fig. 11.73b. The criterion for optimization of the slope
a) b)
4 efficiency in (11.90) is maximizing the ratio W11 /W22 .
F7/2 Outputp power (W)
H11/2 2
For Er3+ concentrations of > 2–3 mol % at which ETU
S3/2 processes become important, this ratio is ≈ 3, see the
D2 dashed line in Fig. 11.73b, a more favorable value than
F9/2 reported for LiYF4 :Er3+ [11.851]. Energy recycling by
1 ETU at high Er3+ concentrations [11.902] might lead
I9/2 ET2 to output powers at 3 µm on the order of 10 W. In early
4 1 attempts, two research groups tried to exploit energy
I11/2 G4
recycling [11.903, 904], however the slope efficiencies
ET1 0 in these experiments did not exceed the slope efficien-
3 0 2 4 6 8 10 12
4 F4 cies obtained in Er3+ ,Pr3+ -codoped fibers pumped at
I13/2 3 Launched pump power (W)
Laser 3 corresponding pump wavelengths [11.891, 892, 898]. In
H6 fibers with relatively large core diameters and there-
H5 fore transverse multimode operation, singly Er-doped
with concentrations smaller than those required for
I15/2 H4 efficient energy recycling, 3 W of output power was
3+ 3+
Er Pr
obtained [11.905]. With further increase of the core
Fig. 11.76 (a) Partial energy-level scheme of erbium indicating the diameter to 90 µm, the highest pulsed output of > 0.5 mJ
processes relevant to the ZBLAN:Er3+ lifetime-quenching laser: could be demonstrated by the same researchers. Re-
GSA at 980 nm to the 4 I11/2 upper laser level (or at 790 nm to the cently, 8 W of output power with a slope efficiency
4I 4 of 24.4% were demonstrated from a highly Er-doped
9/2 pump level and subsequent multiphonon relaxation to I11/2 ),
laser transition to the I13/2 lower laser level, and relaxation to (60 000 ppm) ZBLAN fiber when dual-end-pumping the
the ground state via energy transfer ET1 to the Pr3+ codopant. fiber with 25 W of launched pump power at 975 nm.
The energy transfer ET2 from the 4 I11/2 upper laser level to the This result represents the highest output obtained by the
Pr3+ codopant is weak. (b) Output power at 2.7 µm under 792 nm end of 2005 from a fiber laser near 3 µm. Again, the
pumping. (After [11.891]) achieved slope efficiency of 24.4% is very similar to
Lasers and Coherent Light Sources 11.2 Solid-State Lasers 673

that of 25% obtained with the same pump wavelength in phonon energies, which lead to fast multiphonon relax-
a Er3+ ,Pr3+ -codoped fiber [11.898]. Therefore, it must ation of the excitation of the upper laser level. Therefore,
be concluded that efficient energy recycling with cor- many of the laser transitions reported in the literature re-
respondingly improved slope efficiency similar to the quire cooling of the active device. On the other hand, the
result of 50% in a crystalline host material [11.837] is attractiveness of this wavelength range for a number of
still lacking. applications has inspired the search for host materials
with maximum phonon energies below ≈ 300 cm−1 .

Part C 11.2
Dysprosium-doped solid-state lasers at In crystalline hosts, a flashlamp-pumped, cooled
2.3–2.4 µm and 2.9–3.4 µm Er3+ laser at 4.75 µm [11.614], a CW diode-
The search for new mid-infrared laser transitions de- pumped, cooled Er3+ laser at 3.41 µm [11.911], and
pends entirely on the structure of the energy-level a pulsed diode-pumped room-temperature Er3+ laser
diagram of the rare-earth ions. The Dy3+ ion offers at 4.6 µm [11.912] have been operated. A room-
a rather dense energy-level scheme in the infrared spec- temperature BaY2 F8 :Ho3+ laser was operated at
tral region, resulting in a range of absorption peaks, as 3.9 µm [11.913]. Due to its dense energy-level scheme,
well as a four-level laser transition at 2.3–2.4 µm and Dy3+ offers a large range of possible mid-infrared
a phonon-terminated 3 µm laser transition. The transi- transitions. Recently, room-temperature lasing of Dy3+
tion at 2.3–2.4 µm was among the first laser transitions transitions in the low-phonon host materials CaGaS2
reported and the first to be demonstrated in continuous- and KPb2 Cl5 was demonstrated [11.914], in the for-
wave operation [11.609, 610]. Because of the dense mer material even at 4.31 µm. The longest-wavelength
energy-level scheme of Dy3+ , multiphonon relaxation lasers shown to operate in a solid-state mater-
is an issue of concern in this ion, hence low-phonon host ial are room-temperature 5 µm and 7 µm lasers in
materials may improve its laser performance. Recently, LaCl3 :Pr3+ [11.915, 916].
room-temperature laser emission at 2.43 µm was re- The operation of lasers at wavelengths of
ported in the low-phonon host materials CaGa2 S4 :Dy3+ 3.22 µm [11.917] and 3.95 µm [11.918] has been
and KPb2 Cl5 :Dy3+ . At the 3.4 µm transition, room- obtained from Ho3+ -doped ZBLAN fiber and at
temperature laser oscillation from Dy3+ in BaYb2 F8 3.45 µm [11.919] from Er3+ -doped ZBLAN fiber. It
has been reported [11.906]. The 1100 nm output from was, however, necessary to cool the ZBLAN fiber for
a Yb3+ -doped silica fiber laser has been successfully the 3.45 µm and 3.95 µm transitions. These two laser
used to pump a Dy3+ -doped fluoride fiber laser [11.907]. transitions span five or six maximum phonon ener-
In this case, a maximum output power of 275 mW was gies in ZBLAN, therefore the lifetime of the upper
generated with a slope efficiency of only ≈ 5%, however, laser level for each of these transitions is short and en-
when the pump wavelength was increased to ≈ 1.3 µm genders an increase in the pump threshold compared
using a YAG:Nd3+ laser, the slope efficiency is approx- to other ZBLAN fiber lasers operating at the shorter
imately quadrupled to ≈ 20% [11.908]. Reduced levels mid-infrared wavelengths. In addition, the lower laser
of pump ESA are believed to cause this augmentation in levels of these transitions possess quite long lifetimes
the slope efficiency. Future Dy3+ -doped fluoride fiber and some saturation of the output power has been ob-
lasers may benefit from further increases in the pump served [11.920]. This problem (while it can be mitigated
wavelength to 1.7 µm or 2.8 µm. with cascaded lasing), combined with the use of incon-
Before turning our attention to rare-earth-ion-doped venient pump sources has impeded the full utilization
solid-state lasers in the wavelength range beyond 3 µm, of these laser transitions. The 3.95 µm wavelength emit-
it should be noted that solid-state lasers based on the ted from the cooled ZBLAN fiber laser is currently the
actinide ion U3+ have also attracted attention in the longest laser wavelength that has been generated from
recent past [11.909, 910]. a fiber laser.
Generating wavelengths longer than 3 µm from fiber
Solid-state lasers at wavelengths beyond 3 µm lasers is a task that tests the limits of current glass
Laser wavelengths longer than typically 3 µm are gen- technology. The need for lower phonon energies has to
erally difficult to achieve in solid-state host materials be balanced with acceptable mechanical, chemical, and
by direct generation from rare-earth or transition-metal thermal properties. Since the highly developed ZBLAN
ions, because the energy gap between the upper and glass is only useful for laser transitions up to 3–3.5 µm,
lower laser level is necessarily small and all the com- glasses such as the chalcogenides [11.921] will need
mon oxide and fluoride host materials possess maximum to fill the gap. It is because these glasses have to
674 Part C Coherent and Incoherent Light Sources

be drawn into low-loss fiber that has prevented long- sitizer and quenching ions will enable the production of
wavelength emission to the extent that is possible in efficient > 3 µm output some time in the future.
crystalline-based solid-state lasers. Creating efficient,
high-power mid-infrared fiber lasers with output wave- Conclusions
lengths > 3 µm is at the forefront of current fiber-laser In the roughly four decades since the demonstration
research efforts. of the first mid-infrared solid-state lasers, thousands of
As mentioned above, fiber lasers operating on laser scientific papers have been published which have re-
Part C 11.2

transitions that have wavelengths > 3 µm will need to ported on lasing in novel host materials, replacement
use glasses, which have very low phonon energies. While of flashlamps by ion-laser and later diode-laser pump
rare-earth-ion-doped heavy-metal oxides [11.925] have sources, ever-growing output powers, higher efficien-
been studied for 2–3 µm mid-infrared emission; to date, cies, larger tunability ranges, shorter pulse durations
there has been no report of laser action for a fiber laser and the like. A general tendency is that, the shorter
comprised of such a glass. Heavy-metal oxides do not the wavelength, the better the laser performance. When
seem to be suitable for lasers at wavelengths beyond we approach longer wavelengths in the mid-infrared
3 µm, because their maximum phonon energies are com- spectrum, we find that the quality and durability of
parable to fluoride glasses and are too high for laser the required low-phonon-energy host materials decline,
transitions beyond 3 µm. Stokes and slope efficiencies decrease, whereas the ther-
The chalcogenide glasses have been doped with mal problems increase. While many crystalline host
a number of rare-earth ions including Ho3+ [11.924], materials and the corresponding laser techniques have
Tm3+ [11.923], Tb3+ [11.923], Dy3+ [11.922], matured during the 1990s, the fast development of high-
Pr3+ [11.926], and Er3+ [11.927, 928] for studies into power, fundamental-mode fiber lasers, which could be
> 3 µm mid-infrared luminescence (Table 11.21). Fiber- witnessed in the 1 µm spectral range, has now also
laser action has been reported, however, only for an reached the mid-infrared spectral region. However, the
Nd3+ -doped GLS glass operating at a wavelength of assumption that, due to its large surface-to-volume ra-
≈ 1 µm [11.929]. Recent demonstrations of fabricating tio, the fiber geometry might avoid all thermal problems
Bragg gratings [11.930], single-mode fibers [11.931] has been questioned by several recent high-power fiber-
and holey fibers [11.932] with chalcogenide glass high- laser experiments in the near- and mid-infrared spectral
light the utility of this glass for fiber-based applications; region. These phenomena are, in principle, not much
however, the purity and toxicity of the starting materials different from the situation found in crystalline lasers.
and the difficulty of making ultralow-loss fiber currently Nevertheless, there remain distinct differences between
impede the widespread use of chalcogenide glass for these two host categories. When flexibility of the res-
mid-infrared fiber-laser applications. Once these obsta- onator design, short pulses, and high peak powers are
cles have been overcome, future > 3 µm fiber lasers required, crystalline lasers have advantages. On the other
will most likely involve the rare-earth ions Pr3+ , Nd3+ , hand, fiber lasers are preferred when high beam quality
Dy3+ , and Ho3+ doped into chalcogenide glass, because or low pump threshold combined with medium CW out-
most of the important mid-infrared transitions relevant to put power are desired. The low pump threshold of fiber
these ions can be accessed with pump-photon wavenum- lasers is an invaluable advantage when cascade-laser
bers < 10 000 cm−1 . Judicious choice of the overall operation is required to depopulate the long-lived ter-
dopant-ion concentration and the use of particular sen- minating level of one laser transition by a second laser
transition. The comparatively low dopant concentrations
Table 11.21 Examples of luminescent transitions investi- that are useful in fiber lasers due to the long interaction
gated as candidates for mid-infrared lasers in sulfide glasses lengths can minimize energy dissipation by interionic
processes but, equally, limit the exploitation of these pro-
Ion λlaser (µm) Transition Ref. cesses as a tool to optimize the population mechanisms
Dy3+ 13/2 → H15/2
3.2 6H 6 [11.922] of a certain laser system, as has been done successfully
Tm3+ 3.8 3 H →3 H
5 4 [11.923] in several of the mid-infrared crystalline laser systems
Ho3+ 3.9 5 I →5 H
5 6 [11.924] discussed above. Although still a great challenge with re-
spect to fabrication process and durability, low-phonon
Dy3+ 11/2 → H13/2
4.3 6H 6 [11.922]
7 F →7 F
crystalline and fiber host materials have the potential to
Tb3+ 4.8 5 6 [11.923]
5 I →5 I
revolutionize CW mid-infrared lasers in the wavelength
Ho3+ 4.9 4 5 [11.924] range between 3–5 µm.
Lasers and Coherent Light Sources 11.2 Solid-State Lasers 675

11.2.5 Transition-Metal-Ion Lasers 3+

Ti :Al2O3
3+ 3+
Ti :BeAl2O4 Cr :Al2O3
Basics 3+ 3+
Ti :YAlO3 Cr :BeAl2O4
In this chapter an overview of transition-metal-ion lasers 3+
Cr :LiCaAlF6
will be given. The main focus lies on the laser charac- 3+
Cr :Be3Al2(SiO3)6 (emerald)
teristics and results, a more spectroscopically oriented 3+
Cr :LiSrAlF6
overview is given in [11.933]. Transition metals are el- 3+
Cr :La3Ga5SiO14

Part C 11.2
ements of the third, fourth and fifth row of elements V :MgF2
in the periodic table. Laser oscillation has so far only V :CsCaF3

been obtained with ions of the transition metals of the 5+ 5+ 5+

Mn :Sr5(VO4)3F, Mn :Sr3(VO4)2, Mn :Ba5(VO4)2
third row (the Fe row; Ti to Cu). Due to the strong
coupling between the electronic levels of the transition- Cr :Mg2SiO4
metal ion with the surrounding field established by the Cr :Ca2GeO4
Cr :Y3Al5O12
crystalline environment, transition-metal-ion lasers are 4+
Cr :Y3ScxAl5-xO12
usually tunable over a wide spectral range up to sev- 2+
Ni :MgO
eral hundred nanometers. These lasers are of interest for 2+
Ni :Gd3Ga5O13
a wide field of applications, e.g., in scientific research, 2+
Ni :MgF2
in medicine, for measurement and testing techniques, 2+
Co :MgF2
ultrashort-pulse generation, and communication. They
can also be used as coherent light sources for second- Cr :ZnSe
harmonic generation, for optical parametric oscillators, Cr :ZnS
and for sum- and difference-frequency generation. Cr :CdMnTe
The energy-level scheme and thus also the spectro- Cr :CdSe
scopic and laser characteristics of a transition-metal ion Fe :ZnSe

in a crystalline field is strongly dependent on the valence

1000 2000 3000 4000 5000
state of the ion, the number of ligands (i. e., the coor- Wavelength (nm)
dination number) and the strength and symmetry of the
surrounding crystalline field. Therefore it is not possible Fig. 11.77 Overview of tunable solid-state lasers based on transition-
to draw some kind of Dieke diagram for the transition- metal-ion-doped crystals
metal ions, as it is possible for the trivalent rare-earth
ions (see the section on 4f–4f transitions in Sect. 11.2.1). over the near-infrared to the mid-infrared. This overview
The energy-level schemes of the transition-metal ions in includes Ti3+ lasers, especially Ti3+ :Al2 O3 , Cr3+
crystalline hosts are in principle described by the so- lasers, Cr4+ lasers and finally Cr2+ lasers. At the end
called Tanabe–Sugano diagrams [11.934–936]. These of this section, other transition-metal-ion lasers are pre-
diagrams are distinguished by the number of electron sented, including Co2+ and Ni2+ lasers. Finally, some
within the 3d electron shell. In these diagrams the en- general comments about transition-metal-ion lasers will
ergy of a specific level of the transition-metal ion is be given in the last section. In Fig. 11.77 an overview
depicted as a function of the crystal field strength. We of lasers based on 3d↔3d transitions of transition-metal
will not describe the quantum-mechanical background ions is given. It can be seen that almost the whole spectral
to obtain these diagrams, which would be beyond the range between 650 nm and 4500 nm is covered.
frame of this handbook. The reader is referred to the
appropriate literature [11.937–942]. Overview of Transition-Metal-Ion Lasers
In comparison to laser systems based on the 4f↔4f Ti3+ lasers. Ti3+ -doped Al2 O3 (Ti:sapphire) has been
transitions of trivalent rare-earth ions, lasers based on intensively investigated as a tunable laser material since
3d↔3d transitions are in general more affected by the first laser operation was reported [11.943, 944].
a higher probability of excited-state absorption, a higher Efficient laser oscillation was obtained in Al2 O3 in
probability of nonradiative decay, and a higher saturation pulsed [11.943,945,946] and continuous-wave [11.945,
intensity, leading to higher laser thresholds. Often laser 947, 948] operation, for further references see [11.213].
oscillation cannot be obtained at all. In the following sec- The tuning range covers more than 400 nm and spans
tion, the focus is on specific transition-metal-ion lasers, approximately 670–1100 nm [11.949]. It has a rela-
ordered according to their laser wavelength from visible tively high emission cross section of approximately
676 Part C Coherent and Incoherent Light Sources

the tuning range and efficiency of other transition-

metal-ion-doped lasers. The orbital degeneracy of the
Coordination d levels is removed due to the Jahn–Teller effect, which
octahedral tetrahedral
2 2
yields the large absorption and emission bandwidths.
E T2 The room-temperature absorption and emission spec-
tra are shown in Fig. 11.80. Excited-state absorption
transitions occurs to energy levels correlated to charge
Part C 11.2

transfer and conduction-band levels and between the

two Jahn–Teller-split components of the upper (2 E) d
level. In Ti:sapphire, excited-state absorption was not
2 2 observed in the spectral range of emission [11.952]. In
T2 E
Table 11.22 the laser-relevant parameters of Ti:sapphire
are listed. Besides the favorable spectroscopic and laser
Fig. 11.78 Basic energy-level schemes of 3d1 ions in octa- characteristic, the Al2 O3 host material offers a variety
hedral and tetrahedral coordination of advantageous properties: a high thermal conductivity,
as well as mechanical and chemical hardness.
4.1 × 10−19 cm2 [11.950] at the maximum of the emis- To date, Ti3+ :Al2 O3 is the most common and com-
sion spectrum. A slope efficiency of 62% has been mercially available tunable solid-state laser. Nowadays,
reported [11.951], which is close to the quantum limit it can be pumped with frequency-doubled Nd lasers
in that experiment of 78% (pump wavelength 589 nm, at wavelengths around 532 nm, thus efficient all-solid-
emission wavelength 750 nm). This indicates the low state laser operation is possible. Formerly, Ar+ -ion laser
intrinsic losses of the system. pumping was applied. In commercial systems, overall
The Ti3+ ion belongs to the 3d1 configuration, efficiencies as high as 30% are obtained.
which is very favorable with respect to laser appli- Besides the broad tuning capability of the
cation because of its simple energy-level scheme (see Ti:sapphire laser, its ability for ultrashort-pulse gen-
Figs. 11.78, 11.79). There are only two 3d1 energy lev- eration and amplification is especially exploited. In
els, which diminishes the possibility of excited-state mode-locked operation, pulses as short as 5 fs [11.953–
absorption of the laser radiation, a process that limits 957] and octave-spanning spectra (e.g., 600 nm to
1200 nm [11.957]) have been obtained.
Energy Laser oscillation with reasonable efficiency has
also been reported for Ti3+ :BeAl2 O4 [11.958–961]
Table 11.22 Overview of Ti3+ :Al2 O3 laser-relevant param-
eters [11.948, 950]
Index of refraction 1.76
Absorption cross section 6.5 × 10−20 cm2 (E  c)
ESA Fluorescence lifetime 3.2 µs
nr Fluorescence bandwidth ≈ 200 nm
em T2
2 Peak emission wavelength 790 nm
Peak stimulated emission 4.1 × 10−19 cm2 (E  c)
2 CT
ÄEJT( T2) cross section
Configurational coordinate Q 2.0 × 10−19 cm2 (E⊥c)
Quantum efficiency ≈ 0.9–1
Fig. 11.79 Schematic diagram of the Jahn–Teller effect
Saturation fluence 0.9 J/cm2
for octahedrally coordinated d1 -systems. 2 E, 2 T2 and CT
Dopant concentration 0.1% (weight)
(charge transfer) are the energy levels, GSA, ESA, and em
Growth Czochralski, heat exchange
are ground-state absorption, excited-state absorption, and
Tm 2050 ◦ C
emission, respectively. nr represents the nonradiative de-
Thermal conductivity 28 W/mK
cay via tunneling between the excited state and the ground
state. ∆E JT is the Jahn–Teller stabilization energy Thermal lens ( dn/ dT ) 12 × 10−19 K−1
Lasers and Coherent Light Sources 11.2 Solid-State Lasers 677

(Table 11.23). However, the efficiency as well as the tun-

ing range is smaller than Ti3+ :Al2 O3 , thus this laser has a) Absorption coefficient (cm–1)
no commercial application. In Y3 Al5 O12 [11.962] and Absorption (arb. units)
YAlO3 [11.963, 964] crystals doped with Ti3+ the ob- T = 4K
served efficiencies are very low (Table 11.23). The main E II c
T = 300 K 1Å
reason for this is excited-state absorption in the spec- E II c
tral region of emission and absorption [11.952, 965]. In 1 nm

Part C 11.2
Ti3+ -doped systems nonradiative decay processes due to 595 600 605 610 615
phonon-assisted tunneling between the Jahn–Teller-split ë (nm)
excited and ground states also occur, which prevent effi-
cient laser oscillation, e.g., in Ti3+ :Y3 Al5 O12 [11.966,
× 10

Cr3+ lasers.
Basics. The Cr3+ ion is almost always found in oc- 0
200 300 400 500 600
tahedral coordination and its energy-level scheme is ë (nm)
described by the Tanabe–Sugano diagram shown in
b) Fluorescence intensity (arb. units)
Fig. 11.81. In low crystal fields, the first excited state
is the 4 T2 level, whereas in strong crystal fields the Fluorescence intensity
2 E level is the first excited state. This means, that ei- (arb. units)
T = 300 K T = 4K
ther broadband emission (4 T2 → 4 A2 ) or narrow-line 1 nm 1Å
emission (2 E → 4 A2 ) occurs. The absorption spectra
are dominated by quartet–quartet transitions, whereas
the excited-state absorption spectra are dominated ei- 620 625 630 635
ë (nm)
ther by quartet–quartet or doublet–doublet transitions
depending on the total spin of the lowest excited state.

Laser characteristics. The first laser was realized in

1960 with ruby, i. e., Cr3+ -doped Al2 O3 [11.968]. In
ruby – due to the strong crystal field experienced by the
Cr3+ ion – the laser oscillation occurs on the 2 E → 4 A2
transition. Thus, ruby is a three-level laser and not 600 700 800 900 1000
tunable over a wide range. Ruby is still a commer- ë (nm)
cially available pulsed laser system with peak output Fig. 11.80a,b Absorption (a) and emission (b) spectra at room
powers in the MW range used for applications in temperature and at 4 K of Ti:sapphire. (After [11.948])
measurement and pulsed holography. Ruby has remark-
able thermo-mechanical properties which allows high
peak power operation, especially in the Q-switched the ground state. Therefore, a four-level laser system is
regime. In 1976, Morris et al. [11.969] realized with realized. To date, the alexandrite laser has found signifi-
Cr3+ -doped BeAl2 O4 (alexandrite) the first tunable cant commercial applications in industry (e.g., marking,
laser based on the Cr3+ ion. The laser transition is writing and printing), scientific research (e.g., fluores-
4 T → 4 A and terminates in the higher vibronics of cence dynamics, fluorescence imaging, LIDAR), and
2 2

Table 11.23 Overview of other Ti3+ -laser materials

Crystal λlaser Tuning range Slope Mode of Pump source Ref.
(nm) (nm) efficiency (%) operation
BeAl2 O4 810 730–950 15 Pulsed SHG Q-switched Nd:YAG (532 nm) [11.959]
- 753–949 0.013 Pulsed flashlamp (10 µs) [11.961]
Y3 Al5 O12 No details given in the reference [11.962]
YAlO3 615 - 0.3 Pulsed SHG Q-switched Nd:YAlO3 (540 nm) [11.963, 964]
678 Part C Coherent and Incoherent Light Sources

more than 30 materials. In Table 11.25 an overview of
E/B T1b (t2 e2) reported laser systems is given [11.103, 977]. In general
the tuning ranges for Cr3+ lasers are not as broad as for
Ti3+ :Al2 O3 lasers, however, they exhibit the advantage
of direct diode-laser pumping around 670 nm, i. e., in
the spectral region of the 4 A2 → 4 T2 absorption.
60 A1 (t22e)
For Cr3+ laser systems excited-state absorption
Part C 11.2

4 (ESA) plays a very important role and is the main

T1a (t22e)
reason for the observed large differences in the laser ef-
2 4 ficiencies. Due to its energy-level scheme (Fig. 11.81),
40 T2 (t22e)
spin-allowed ESA transitions are expected either be-
T2 (t23) tween the quartet states (for low-crystal-field hosts) or
2 between the doublet states (in strong-field hosts). These
D 2
H, 2P T1 (t23)
2 2
transitions cover a wide spectral range, due to the strong
20 E (t23) electron–phonon coupling. Thus, in general, these ESA
P transitions overlap with the absorption and emission
bands. The influence of the ESA is strongly dependent
on the host lattice, i. e., on the crystal field experienced
F 0 4
A2 (t23) by the Cr3+ ion. In general, it is observed that crystals
0 1 2 3 4
with a medium crystal field for the Cr3+ ion are favor-
able. Furthermore, in some crystals (e.g., the colquirites,
Fig. 11.81 Tanabe–Sugano diagram for octahedrally coor- alexandrite, emerald etc.) the polarization-dependent se-
dinated 3d3 ions, e.g., Cr3+ with C/B = 5.5. The dashed lection rules can be exploited. Cubic hosts are generally
vertical line marks the border between low and high crystal more strongly affected.
field strength
Summary and perspectives for Cr3+ lasers. Cr3+
medicine (e.g., hair and tattoo removal,). Its advan- lasers are generally interesting for laser applications.
tages are its tunability between 700 nm and 820 nm, the High-efficiency diode-pumped and broadly tunable
high heat conductivity of 23 W/mK, which allows high- continuous-wave and mode-locked laser oscillation have
power pulsed operation, and its high slope efficiency been obtained in a variety of crystals. Some laser sys-
of up to 51% [11.970, 971]. Even broader laser tun- tems are commercially available. However, all of these
ing ranges with similar efficiencies were achieved with crystals have specific drawbacks: they have poor thermal
the Cr3+ -doped colquirite crystals LiCaAlF6 , LiSrAlF6 , mechanical properties, the growing process is difficult
and LiSrGaF6 [11.972] (Table 11.25). However, these or the tuning range is small. Therefore Cr3+ lasers are at
crystals suffer from poor thermo-mechanical properties this time in general not competitive with the Ti3+ :Al2 O3
(Table 11.24), which allow only relatively low pump and laser, which offers a broader tuning range, allows shorter
laser powers. The broad tuning range is exploited for pulses in the mode-locked regime and has better thermo-
mode-locked operation with pulse lengths down to 9 fs mechanical properties. Ti3+ :Al2 O3 cannot be pumped
for Cr3+ :LiCAF [11.973]. The crystals also offer the directly with diode lasers; however, advances in the
possibility of efficient laser-diode pumping with laser frequency-doubling technique of neodymium lasers has
diodes at wavelengths around 670–690 nm. Thus com- led to efficient all-solid-state pump lasers which re-
pact, mode-locked laser systems in the low-power range placed the argon-ion laser as pump. Additionally, pump
are possible [11.974–976]. It is interesting to note that laser diodes in the spectral region between 630 nm and
the highest slope efficiency ever obtained with a Cr3+ - 700 nm with high beam quality and output power are
based laser was achieved with Cr3+ :Be3 Al2 (SiO3 )6 currently not available in a satisfactory manner. Con-
(emerald). Also here, however, the thermo-mechanical cerning the research for new Cr3+ laser systems one has
properties are poor and, furthermore, the emerald crys- to take into account that the Cr3+ ion has already been
tal is very difficult to grow in laser quality. For the investigated in a large number of systems. In princi-
most efficient Cr3+ laser materials the relevant laser and ple, new host materials with the perspective of efficient
materials parameters are listed in Table 11.24. Laser os- laser operation should have a medium crystal field for
cillation with Cr3+ -doped systems has been realized in the Cr3+ ion and polarization-dependent optical prop-
Lasers and Coherent Light Sources 11.2 Solid-State Lasers 679

Table 11.24 Materials, spectroscopic and laser parameters of the most important Cr3+ lasers
LiCaAlF6 LiSrAlF6 Alexandrite Ruby
Structure Trigonal Trigonal Orthorhombic Hexagonal
P3̄1c P3̄1c Pnma R3̄c
Lattice parameters (Å) 5.007 (a) 5.084 (a) 9.404 (a) 4.759 (a)
9.641 (c) 10.21 (c) 5.476 (b) 12.989 (c)

Part C 11.2
4.425 (c)
Typical Cr3+ concentration (cm−3 ) ≈ 1019 – 1020 ≈ 1019 –1020 ≈ 1019 – 1020 ≈ 1.6 × 1019
Growth Czochralski Czochralski Czochralski Czochralski
Tm (◦ C) 810±10 766±10 1870 2050
Density (g/cm3 ) 2.99 3.45 3.69 3.98
Thermal conductivity (W/mK) 4.58 (|| a) 3.0 (|| a) 20 33 (|| a)
5.14 (|| c) 3.3 (|| c) 35 (|| c)
Thermal expansion (10−6 C−1 ) 22 (|| a) 25 (|| a) 6 (|| a) 6.65 (|| a)
3.6 (|| c) -10 (|| c) 6 (|| b) 7.15 (|| c)
7 (|| c)
n 1.390 (a) 1.405 (a) n a = 1.7381 ( 800 nm) 1.763 (o)
1.389 (c) 1.407 (c) n b = 1.7436 ( 800 nm) 1.755 (e)
n c = 1.7361 ( 800 nm)
dn/ dT (10−6 /K) -4.2 (|| a) -2.5 (|| a) 13.6 (o)
-4.6 (|| c) -4 (|| c) 14.7 (e)
σem (10−20 cm2 ) 1.3 (π) 4.8 (π) 0.7 2.5
τem (300 K) (µs) 170 67 260 3000
σem τ(10−24 cm−2 s−1 ) 2.2 3.2 1.8 75
λpeak,em (nm) 763 846 697 694.3
∆λ (nm) ≈ 120 ≈ 200 ≈ 75 -
∆λ/λpeak,em ≈ 0.16 ≈ 0.24 ≈ 0.11 -

erties that could help to avoid or at least significantly 3 T excited state and the 3 A ground state is observed.
2 2
reduce excited-state absorption in the spectral region Referring to the Tanabe–Sugano diagram and the indi-
of the emission. Furthermore, good thermo-mechanical cated area of crystal field values for the Cr4+ ion, one
properties are required. would expect – at least in some materials – narrow-line
emission. However, due to lattice relaxation and crys-
Cr4+ lasers. tal field splitting of the excited state, the 3 T2 or one of
Basics. Cr4+ -doped crystals have been of interest as its crystal field components becomes lower than the 1 E
tunable, room-temperature laser materials since the late level.
1980s. In a variety of materials laser oscillation in The most efficient laser oscillation of Cr4+ -doped
different operation schemes has been achieved, see materials was realized in Mg2 SiO4 and Y3 Al5 O12
Table 11.26 and Table 11.28, where an overview of (YAG). The laser data and main spectroscopic data of
the obtained laser results is given. The energy-level these materials are listed in Table 11.26 and Table 11.27.
scheme of the Cr4+ ion in crystals can be described A variety of further host materials for the Cr4+ ion
with the Tanabe–Sugano diagram shown in Fig. 11.82. were also investigated, but with either low efficiency
The absorption spectra are dominated by the three spin- (Table 11.28) or without realization of laser oscillation.
allowed transitions between the 3 A2 ground state and A detailed overview of Cr4+ -doped systems is given
the 3 T2 (3 F), 3 T1 (3 F), and 3 T1 (3 P) excited states. Usu- in [11.933].
ally, the energy levels are strongly crystal field dependent In all Cr4+ -doped materials investigated thus far,
and split, thus the absorption spectra of different mater- there are two main drawbacks for efficient laser oscil-
ials differ significantly. In all materials investigated thus lation or laser oscillation at all: excited-state absorption
far, broadband emission due to the transition between the and nonradiative decay. Investigation of excited-state
680 Part C Coherent and Incoherent Light Sources

Table 11.25 Free-running laser wavelengths, tuning ranges, laser temperatures, slope efficiencies, operation modes and output
power/output energy of Cr3+ -laser materials. (CW: continuous wave, p: pulsed, SHG: second harmonic, fl: flash lamp, dc: duty
cycle, QS: Q-switched, g-sw: gain-switched, ML: mode locked, * discontinuously)
Host material Wavelength Tuning T (K) η (%) Mode Pout /Eout Ref.
(nm) range (nm)
Be3 Al2 (SiO3 )6 684.8 300 p (SHG QS Nd:YAG) [11.988]
757.4 751–759.2 300 p (fl) 6.8 mJ [11.989]
Part C 11.2

765 728.8–809.0 300 34 CW (Kr+ ) ≈ 330 mW [11.990]

768 720–840 300 64 q-CW (3% DC) 1.6 W [11.991,
LiCaAlF6 780 720–840 52.4 CW (5% DC) Kr+ 850 mW [11.972]
780 720–840 300 52 CW (5% DC) Kr+ [11.993]
780 1.55 p – fl 1.8 J [11.993]
LiSrGaF6 820 - 300 51 CW, Kr+ 1W [11.994]
800–900 300 QS (10 kHz), 12 µJ [11.995]
laser diode [11.996]
BeAl2 O4 679.9 77 [11.997]
680.3 77 p (fl) [11.998,
680.3 700–800 300 p (fl) [11.1000]
750 701–794 300 p (fl) 500 mJ [11.1000,
765 744–788 300 ≈ 0.7 q-CW (ac Hg-lamp) 6.5 W [11.1002]
745–785 300 2.3 CW 20 W [11.1003]
(DC Hg-,Xe-lamp)
750 700–820 300 p (fl 125 Hz) 150 W [11.1004]
755 300 1.2 CW 60 W [11.1004]
750 300 ML (38 ps) [11.1004]
752–790 300–583 p (fl), temp. tuning [11.1005]
700–820 300–583 [11.970,
971, 997,
701–818 300 [11.1000]
744–788 300 [11.1002]
701–818 300 2.5 fl 35 W / 5 J [11.970]
680.4 300 0.15 fl-QS (20 ns) 500 mJ [11.970,
680.4 300 0.15 fl 400 mJ [11.970]
752 726–802 300 51 CW, Kr+ 600 mW [11.971]
752 700–820 [11.969]
753 300 63.8 dye, 645 nm 150 mW [11.1013]
753 300 laser diode, ≈ 640 nm 25 mW [11.1013]
765 300 28 QS SHG Nd: GVO, 150 mW [11.1014]
671 nm (80 kHz)
LiSrAlF6 825 780–920 300 36 CW, Kr+ 650 mW [11.993,
865 815–915 300 a-ML (30 ps, 160 fs) 3.5 mW [11.1016]
845 780–1010 300 5 p (fl) 2.7 J [11.1017]
834 300 CW (laser diode) 20 mW [11.1018]
870 858–920 300 laser diode, 4.3 mW [11.1019]
electronically tuned
849 810–860 300 laser diode 43 mW [11.1020]
300 p (fl, 5 Hz) 44 W/ 8.8 J [11.1021]
Lasers and Coherent Light Sources 11.2 Solid-State Lasers 681

Table 11.25 (continued)

Host material Wavelength Tuning T (K) η (%) Mode Pout /Eout Ref.
(nm) range (nm)
ScBO3 843 787–892 300 25 CW (3%), Kr+ 250 mW [11.1022]
300 26 CW (10%), Kr+ 275 mW [11.972]
Gd3 Sc2 Ga3 O12 777 745–805 300 11 CW (1:50 DC) 60 mW [11.1023]
785 742–842 300 28 quasi-CW 200 mW [11.1024–

Part C 11.2
790 300 1 p (10 µs, dye) 10 µJ [11.1027]
766–820 300 0.06 p – fl 20 mJ [11.1028]
300 0.02 p – fl 10 mJ [11.1029]
0.57 p – fl ≈ 70 mJ [11.1030]
Na3 Ga2 Li3 F12 791 741–841 300 18.4 CW [11.54]
Y3 Sc2 Al3 O12 769 9 q-CW, Kr+ 50 mW [11.1031]
Gd3 Sc2 Al3 O12 780 750–800 300 0.24 p – fl 200 mJ [11.1029]
784 765–801 300 0.12 p – fl 110 mJ [11.1032]
784 300 18.5 CW Kr+ 90 mW [11.1025,
780 750–810 300 0.38 p – fl 260 mJ [11.1034]
300 QS (p – fl) 30 mJ [11.1034]
784 735–820 300 19 CW, Kr+ 200 mW [11.1031]
780 750–803 300 0.24 p – fl 206 mJ [11.1031]
SrAlF5 921, 935 852–947 300 3.6 q-CW (DC 3%), Kr+ 35 mW [11.1035]
910 15 q-CW (DC 2%), Kr+ [11.1036]
932 825–1011 [11.1037]
930 825–1010 300 10 Kr+ [11.1038]
KZnF3 810, 826 300 1 p – dye (0.5 µs) [11.1039,
790–826 775–825 20– 260 0.1 CW, Kr+ [11.1039,
785–865 300 14 CW, Kr+ 85 mW [11.1041]
785–865 p – ruby [11.1042]
780–845 300 3 CW, Kr+ 55 mW [11.1043]
820 766–865 300 14 [11.1044]
ZnWO4 980–1090 77 13 CW 110 mW [11.1026,
300 p – dye [11.1045]
La3 Ga5 SiO14 960 862–1107 300 7.6 CW (3% DC) 80 mW [11.1046]
815–1110 300 10 p 10 mJ [11.1047]
968 [11.1048]
Gd3 Ga5 O12 769 - 300 10 quasi-CW [11.1023,
La3 Ga5.5 Nb0.5 O14 1040 900–1250 300 5 p 10 mJ [11.1047,
Y3 Ga5 O12 740 - 5 quasi-CW [11.1023,
Y3 Sc2 Ga3 O12 750 - 5 quasi-CW [11.1023,
La3 Lu2 Ga3 O12 830 790–850 3 quasi-CW [11.1024,
682 Part C Coherent and Incoherent Light Sources

Table 11.25 (continued)

Host material Wavelength Tuning T (K) η (%) Mode Pout /Eout Ref.
(nm) range (nm)
MgO 830 824–878* 2.3 CW, Ar+ 48 mW [11.1050–
Al2 (WO4 )3 800 q-CW, Kr+ [11.1053]
BeAl6 O10 820 780–920 300 ≈ 0.03 p – fl 6 mJ [11.1054]
Part C 11.2

834 795–874 300 - p – SHG Nd:YAG [11.1055]

Al2 O3 692.9 (R2) 300 p – fl [11.1056]
693.4 300 p – fl [11.1057]
693.4 77 CW, Hg-lamp 4 mW [11.1058]
77 12 CW, Ar+ 42 mW [11.1059]
694.3 (R1) 300 [11.968,
700.9 (N2) 77 [11.1066]
704.1 (N1) 77 [11.1066]
767 300 [11.1067]
Y3 Al5 O12 687.4 not tunable ≈ 77 [11.1068]
LiSr0.8 Ca0.2 AlF6 835 750–950 300 1.25 p – fl 1.2 J [11.1069]
847 783–945 300 CW, Kr+ 300 mW [11.1070]
LiSrCrF6 890 300 33 q-CW, TiSa (DC: 2%) 200 mW [11.1071]
ScBeAlO4 792 740–828 300 31 CW, Kr+ [11.1072]
La3 Ga5 GeO14 880–1220 300 5 p 8 mJ [11.1047,
Sr3 Ga2 Ge4 O14 895–1150 300 3 p 4 mJ [11.1047,
Ca3 Ga2 Ge4 O14 870–1210 300 6 p 16 mJ [11.1047,
La3 Ga5.5 Ta0.5 O14 925–1240 300 5 p 6 mJ [11.1047,
(Ca, Gd)3 (Ga, Mn, Zr)5 O12 774–814 300 12 p – ruby 170 mJ [11.1074]
≈ 777 300 0.08 p – fl 40 mJ [11.1074]
LaSc3 (BO3 )4 934 300 0.65 q-CW, Kr+ 3 mW [11.1075]
(DC: 10%)
LiInGeO4 1150–1480 300 p (g-sw. Ti:Al2 O3 ) [11.1076]
LiScGeO4 1220–1380 300 p (g-sw. Ti:Al2 O3 ) [11.1076]
Li:Mg2 SiO4 1121 1030–1180 300 p (QS Cr3+ :BeAl2 O4 ) [11.1077]
1120, 1130, 285 1.27 CW (Ar+ ) 5.5 mW [11.1077]

absorption has been performed on garnets [11.978– lence state as Cr3+ . Therefore, there is the tendency
980], forsterite [11.981–984], cunyite [11.985], sili- for incorporation of chromium ions in different valen-
cates [11.982] and Wurtzite-type crystals [11.984, 986, cies in the crystals, especially for materials that do not
987]. The nonradiative decay via multiphonon relaxation exhibit an appropriate tetravalent tetrahedrally coordi-
leads to quantum efficiencies far below 100% at room nated lattice site. This is, e.g., the case for Y3 Al5 O12 ,
temperature; see the overview given in [11.933]. The therefore here additional codoping with divalent cations
preparation of Cr4+ -doped crystals requires for most (Mg, Ca) is necessary. But also in Mg2 SiO4 , Cr3+ is in-
materials special conditions before, during or after the corporated into the Mg lattice. No traces of Cr3+ were
growth process. The Cr4+ ion is not as stable in its va- observed in these materials, which do not exhibit an ap-
Lasers and Coherent Light Sources 11.2 Solid-State Lasers 683

Table 11.26 Overview of laser results obtained with Cr4+ :YAG and Cr4+ :Mg2 SiO4 . (CW: continuous wave, lp: long
pulse pumped, g-sw: gain switched, DP: diode pumped, ML: mode locked, CF: crystalline fiber)
Crystal λlaser (nm) Output ηsl (%) Tuning range Mode of operation Ref.
Y3 Al5 O12 1430 7.5 mJ 22 1350–1530 g-sw (55 ns) [11.1078–1083]
1450 1900 mW 42 1340–1570 CW (T = 3 ◦ C) [11.1081, 1083–1085]
1420 58 mJ 28 1309–1596 lp (200 µs) [11.1082, 1083,

Part C 11.2
1086, 1087]
ML [11.1088, 1089]
1440 20 mW 5 1396–1482 CW-ML (26 ps) [11.1090]
1520 360 mW 8 1510–1530 CW-ML (120 fs) [11.1091]
1510 50 mW <1 1490–1580 CW-ML (70 fs) [11.1092]
1540 - - - CW-ML (53 fs) [11.1093]
1569 30 mW DP-ML (65 fs) [11.1094, 1095]
1450 400 mW Nd − YVO4 , ML (20 fs) [11.1096]
1470 80 mW 5.5 1420–1530 DP [11.1097]
1420 150 mW 1.9 - DP-CF [11.1098]
1440 Intracavity Nd:YAG [11.1099]
Mg2 SiO4 CW [11.1100]
1242 38 - CW (duty cycle 1:15) [11.1101, 1102]
1.1 W 26 - CW [11.1103]
DP [11.1104, 1105]
lp [11.1106]
flashlamp pumped [11.1107]
4.95 mJ - 1206–1250 flashlamp pumped [11.1108]
g-sw [11.1106, 1109–1113]
1235 1170–1370 g-sw [11.1114]
370 mW 13 1173–1338 g-sw (1.5 kHz/10kHz) [11.1115]
ML [11.1116–1122]
300 mW - - ML (25 fs) [11.1122]
1300 Nd:YAG, ML (14 fs) [11.1123]
1260 10 pJ - - DP-ML (1.5 ps) [11.1124]
1260 10 mW 5 1236–1300 CW-DP (T = −10 ◦ C) [11.1104]

propriate lattice site for the Cr3+ ion, e.g., Ca2 GeO4 creased significantly. The reason is mainly excited-state
and Y2 SiO5 . However, the laser results obtained with absorption, but the lower crystal quality and increased
Y3 Al5 O12 and Mg2 SiO4 indicate that the laser efficiency nonradiative rate also contribute [11.1125]. A remark-
is not necessarily affected by the presence of Cr3+ . able characteristic – on first sight – is that the Cr4+ :YAG
laser oscillates polarized parallel to one of its main
Laser characteristics. In Table 11.26 an overview crystallographic axes. The laser output was highest
of the laser results obtained with Cr4+ :YAG and when the pump beam of a Nd:YAG laser operating
Cr4+ :Mg2 SiO4 , the materials in which the most effi- at 1064 nm and propagating along the [001]-axis of
cient laser operation has been obtained, is given. In the Cr4+ :YAG crystal is polarized parallel to one of
YAG, the highest slope efficiency obtained thus far in the crystallographic < 100 >-axes of the Cr4+ :YAG
the continuous-wave regime is 42% [11.1085]. The cor- crystal, and was lowest when its polarization was par-
responding input–output curve is shown in Fig. 11.83a. allel to one of the < 110 >-axes (Fig. 11.83b). The
Attempts to improve the laser efficiency by changing the Cr4+ :YAG laser output is polarized and maintains its
crystals composition, i. e., by substituting Lu for Y on polarization while rotating the pump beam polarization.
the dodecahedral site or Sc for Al on the octahedral site When the pump beam polarization is parallel to one
were not successful [11.1086, 1087]. The efficiency de- of the < 110 >-axes, the Cr4+ :YAG laser polarization
684 Part C Coherent and Incoherent Light Sources

Table 11.27 Parameters of Cr4+ -doped Y3 Al5 O12 and Mg2 SiO4
Y3 Al5 O12 (YAG) Mg2 SiO4 (Forsterite)
Structure Ia3d(O10
h ) Pbnm (D16 2h )
Hardness 8.25–8.5 7
Site symmetry S4 m
Growth Czochralski, divalent codopant required Czochralski
(1930±20) ◦ C (1890±20) ◦ C
Part C 11.2

Cr4+ concentration ≈ 1017 –1018 cm−3 ≈ 1018 – 1019 cm−3
Thermal conductivity 0.13 W/cmK 0.08 W/cmK
Refractive index (λpeak ) 1.81 1.669 (a)
1.651 (b)
1.636 (c)
dn/ dT (undoped) 7.7–8.2 × 10−6 /K 9.5 × 10−6 /K
Density 4.56 g/cm3 3.22 g/cm3
σabs (1064 nm) ≈ 6.5 × 10−18 cm2 ≈ 5.0 × 10−19 cm2
σem (λpeak ) ≈ 3.3 × 10−19 cm2 ≈ 2.0 × 10−19 cm2
σESA (λpeak ) < 0.3 × 10−19 cm2 < 0.2 × 10−19 cm2
τem (300 K) 4.1 µs 3.0 µs
σem τ 1.35 × 10−24 cm−2 s−1 0.6 × 10−24 cm−2 s−1
Quantum efficiency ≈ 0.2 ≈ 0.16
λpeak,em 1380 nm 1140 nm
∆λ ≈ 300 nm ≈ 250 nm
∆λ/λpeak,em ≈ 0.22 ≈ 0.22

switches [11.1084]. This characteristic can be explained With the Cr4+ :Mg2 SiO4 laser, slope efficiencies
by the crystal structure, the location of the Cr4+ ions of up to 38% [11.1102] and output powers around
and the local symmetry they experience. For details, 1.1 W [11.1103] in continuous-wave operation at room
see [11.1126, 1127]. temperature have been realized (Fig. 11.83c. For crys-

Table 11.28 Overview of other Cr4+ -doped laser materials. (CW: continuous wave, lp: long pulse pumped, g-sw: gain
switched, DP: diode pumped. * laser-active center assigned to Cr3+ in [11.1076], Table 11.24)
Crystal λlaser (nm) Output ηsl (%) Tuning range Mode of operation Ref.
Y3 Scx Al5−x O12 1498 (x = 0.5) 23 mJ 10 1394–1628 lp (100 µs) [11.1087]
1548 (x = 1.0) 4.5 mJ 3 1464–1604 lp (100 µs) [11.1087]
1584 (x = 1.5) 0.9 mJ 0.5 lp (100 µs) [11.1087]
Lu3 Al5 O12 Not given 50 mW 1.5 - quasi-CW [11.1128, 1129]
Ca2 GeO4 [11.1104, 1130–
1400 0.4 mJ 6.1 1348–1482 g-sw (T = 0 ◦ C) [11.1130, 1133]
1410 20 mW 8.5 1390–1475 CW-DP (T = −10 ◦ C) [11.1104]
LiScGeO∗4 1300 0.1 mJ 3 1220–1380 g-sw [11.1134]
Y2 SiO5 [11.1135, 1136]
1304 20 mW 0.4 - quasi-CW (1:8) [11.1084, 1137]
1348 0.55 mJ 0.4 - lp (200 µs) [11.1084, 1137]
LiNbGeO5 - - - 1320–1430 g-sw (110 K) [11.1138–1140]
CaGd4 (SiO4 )3 O 1370 37 µJ ≈1 g-sw [11.1141]
SrGd4 (SiO4 )3 O 1440 g-sw [11.1141]
Lasers and Coherent Light Sources 11.2 Solid-State Lasers 685

E/B T 2, 1E 3
T1b 1T1 1
T2 3
T1a a) Output power (mW)
50 2500
Output coupler
2000 1%
3 2%
40 3.1 %
1 1500 6.1 %

Part C 11.2
3 °C
1000 ë = 1.45 µm

20 E 0
D 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
P Absorbed pump power (W)
b) Laser output (arb. units)
Cr4+ Mn5+
F 0
0 2 4

Fig. 11.82 Tanabe–Sugano diagram for tetrahedrally coor-

dinated 3d2 ions. The marked area correspond roughly to
the regions of Dq/B values of Cr4+ and Mn5+ . For sim-
plicity, C/B was set to 5.6, although it differs for different
0 45 90 135 180 225 270 315 360
tals from the forsterite group the attempts to obtain better Angle <[010]-axis, pump polarization>
laser results by substituting the constituent ions of the c) Output power (W)
host lattice were also not successful. A variety of crys-
tals were investigated [11.1142–1144] (see the overview 1.2
given in [11.933]) but only for Ca2 GeO4 was laser oscil- T = 6.95 %
1 T = 4.9 %
lation obtained. For Ca2 GeO4 excited-state absorption T = 2.3 %
on the laser wavelength is detrimental [11.985]. 0.8 T = 1.25 %
Laser oscillation was also obtained for Cr4+ - 0.6
doped Y2 SiO5 , LiGeNbO5 , CaGd4 (SiO4 )3 O, and
SrGd4 (SiO4 )3 O. The low efficiencies are probably due 0.4
to excited-state absorption and the high nonradiative
decay rate.
Summary and outlook for Cr4+ lasers. Cr4+ :YAG 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Absorbed pump power (W)
and Cr4+ :Mg2 SiO4 are efficient and broadly tun-
able laser systems for the infrared spectral range Fig. 11.83 (a) Input–output characteristic of a Cr4+ :YAG-
including the very interesting region for telecom- laser (after [11.1085]), (b) Polarization dependence of
munication applications around 1.3 µm and 1.55 µm. a Cr4+ :YAG laser (after [11.933, 1084]), (c) Input–output
Mode-locked operation with pulse lengths as short characteristic of a Cr4+ :Mg2 SiO4 laser (after [11.1103])
as 20 fs for Cr4+ :YAG [11.1096] and 14 fs for
Cr4+ :Mg2 SiO4 [11.1123] were obtained. Also direct concentration in both materials is rather low, yielding
diode-pumped laser operation was realized, however, a low absorption efficiency of the pump light.
with lower efficiencies [11.1094, 1097]. For both sys- The main obstacle for Cr4+ laser materials is excited-
tems, power handling is a problem and the ion state absorption at the emission wavelength, which
686 Part C Coherent and Incoherent Light Sources

important point concerning Cr4+ laser materials is the

E/B nonradiative decay rate. To decrease this rate, crystals
3 with low-energy phonons and/or small electron–phonon
F Quintet states 1
T1 coupling should be used as host materials, e.g., those
Triplet states
H Singlet states in which silicon is substituted by germanium or alu-
20 3
minum is substituted by gallium. However, attempts in
this direction have not been successful thus far.
Part C 11.2

Cr2+ lasers.
T1 Basics. The energy-level scheme of tetrahedrally co-
ordinated Cr2+ is shown in Fig. 11.84. The Cr2+ ion
10 experiences a low crystal field, e.g., in ZnSe the value of
Dq/B is about 0.9. Thus, the 5 T2 level is the ground state
E and the 5 E level is the first excited state, whilst all higher-
lying levels are triplet and singlet states. In consequence,
the 5 E → 5 T2 emission is a spin-allowed transition,
while all interionic excited-state transitions are spin-
5 forbidden. Such systems are in general very promising
T2 1
D 0 A1 for the realization of efficient tunable laser oscillation,
0 1 2 because even in the case of a spectral overlap between
stimulated emission and excited-state absorption, the
Fig. 11.84 Tanabe–Sugano diagram for tetrahedrally coor- transition probabilities for the latter are expected to be
dinated ions with 3d4 configuration, C/B = 4 about a factor of 10 smaller.
Cr2+ -doped chalcogenide crystals have been shown
is present in practically all crystals. Its influence is to be efficient and broadband tunable solid-state lasers
small in systems with an advantageous energy-level for the infrared spectral range between 2 µm and 3 µm.
scheme and/or a crystal structure that supports strong Pulsed, continuous-wave, mode-locked and diode-
polarization-dependent selection rules. A second but less pumped laser operation have been demonstrated in
recent years. Possible applications of these mid-infrared
lasers include scientific research, remote sensing, trace-
ó (10–19 cm2) gas analysis, medicine, biology, materials processing,
and ultrashort-pulse generation.
Materials. The choice of host materials for the Cr2+
laser ion is limited due to special conditions. First, the
materials have to exhibit a tetrahedrally coordinated
lattice site. A divalent lattice site is also preferably,
because otherwise a charge-compensation mechanism
would have to be established in the lattice. Furthermore,
0 host crystals with low phonon frequencies have to be
óGSA + óSE– óESA
óSE– óESA chosen in order to decrease the possibility of nonra-
óGSA diative decay via multiphonon relaxation. Chalcogenide
–4 óSE crystals, with their tetrahedrally coordinated divalent
cation lattice sites and with phonon energies lower than
1500 2000 2500 3000 400 cm−1 , are thus very suitable with respect to the
Wavelength (nm)
realization of efficient broadband emission in this mid-
Fig. 11.85 σGSA (dashed line), σSE (dotted line), (σGSA + σSE − infrared spectral range. In Table 11.29 some material
σESA ) (thin solid line), and (σSE − σESA ) spectrum (thick solid line) parameters of the investigated chalcogenide crystals are
of Cr2+ :ZnSe at room temperature. The sharp structure beyond given in comparison to the data for Al2 O3 . The ther-
2500 nm is attributed to the water absorption in air and the following mal conductivities of the chalcogenides are rather high
normalization process. (After [11.1145]) and comparable to the values for Al2 O3 . However, the
Lasers and Coherent Light Sources 11.2 Solid-State Lasers 687

Table 11.29 Materials parameter of some chalcogenide crystals suitable for Cr2+ . The data for Y3 Al5 O12 are given for comparison.
(*: for CdTe). (After [11.1146–1148]) w: Wurtzite, z: Zincblende
ZnS ZnSe Cd1−x Mnx Te CdSe Y3 Al5 O12
Structure Wurtzite: hexagonal Zincblende: cubic Zincblende: cubic Wurtzite: hexagonal Garnet: cubic
Zincblende: cubic
Site symmetry C3v (hex.) Td Td C3v D2 , C3i , S4

Part C 11.2
Td (cubic)
Growth Vertical Brigdeman Vertical Bridgeman Vertical Brigdeman Vapor transport Czochralski
Tm (◦ C) w: 1700 1525 1070–1092 1250– 1350 1930
z: 1020
Hardness (Knoop) w: 210– 240 130 45∗ 70 1250
z: 150– 160
Refractive index 2.29 2.48 2.75 2.57 1.8
Thermal conductivity w: 17 18 ≈2 6.2 10
(W/mK) z: 27 (6.2∗ )
dn/ dT (10−6 /K) w: 46 70 107∗ 9
Transmission range w: 0.4–17 0.5–18 1–28∗ 0.8–18 0.2–10
(µm) z: 0.4–14

main disadvantages of the chalcogenide crystals are the spectrum due to the 5 E → 5 T2 transition is also broad
growth techniques, which are Bridgman or vapor trans- and occurs between 2 µm and 3 µm. The absorption
port, which usually lead to a lower crystal quality than and emission cross sections for the Cr2+ -doped chalco-
in the case of growth by the Czochralski method, and genides are on the order of ≈ 10−18 cm2 ; these are values
the high values for dn/ dt, which lead to strong thermal expected for tetrahedrally coordinated transition-metal
lensing during laser operation, especially in the case of ions and are larger than those for Ti3+ :Al2 O3 [11.948].
high-power operation. The room-temperature absorption and emission spec-
tra are shown in Fig. 11.85. The emission lifetimes at
Spectroscopy. The spectroscopy of Cr2+ ions in chalco- room temperature are on the order of several µs and the
genide crystals has been thoroughly investigated in the emission quantum efficiencies are close to unity. The
past [11.1154–1162]. Tetrahedrally coordinated Cr2+ σem τ product gives an indication of the expected laser
ions exhibit a broad band in the absorption spectrum due threshold, because Pthr ∝ (σem τ)−1 . The values for the
to the 5 T2 → 5 E transition in the infrared spectral range Cr2+ -doped chalcogenides are higher than in the case
with a maximum around 1.7–1.9 µm. The emission of Ti3+ :Al2 O3 , so that generally lower laser thresholds

Table 11.30 Overview about the spectroscopic characteristics of Cr2+ doped chalcogenide crystals. Data for Ti3+ :Al2 O3
are given for comparison
ZnS ZnSe ZnTe Cd0.85 Mn0.15 Te Cd0.55 Mn0.45 Te CdSe Ti3+ : Al2 O3
[11.1149– [11.1149– [11.1149– [11.1152] [11.1153] [11.1154] [11.948]
1151] 1151] 1151]
σabs (10−20 cm2 ) 52 87 123 ≈ 270 ≈ 170 300 6.5
σem (10−20 cm2 ) 75 90 188 270 170 200 45
τem (300 K) (µs) 8 9 3 1.4 4.8 6 3
σem τ 6.0 8.1 5.6 3.8 8.2 12.0 1.4
(10−22 cm−2 s−1 )
η ≈ 0.73 ≈1 ≈1 ≈ 0.38 ≈1 ≈1 ≈ 0.9
λpeak,em (nm) 2300 2300 2400 2250 2480 2200 800
∆λ (nm) ≈ 780 1000 ≈ 900 ≈ 500 770 ≈ 550 300
∆λ/λpeak,em ≈ 0.34 ≈ 0.43 ≈ 0.38 ≈ 0.22 0.31 ≈ 0.25 0.38
688 Part C Coherent and Incoherent Light Sources

for the Cr2+ -doped materials are expected. The ratio be- experiment, a Q-switched Tm,Ho:YLF laser operating
tween the emission bandwidth and the central emission at 2.05 µm with a repetition rate of 10 kHz was used
wavelength, ∆λ/λpeak,em , is a measure for the principle as the pump source. An output power of 4.27 W with
ability to generate ultrashort pulses in the mode-locked a slope efficiency of 47% with respect to the absorbed
regime; the higher this value, the shorter the pulses. The pump power was obtained. The other possibility is to
values for Cr2+ -doped crystals are comparable to those use a rather large pump beam radius of 260 µm (1/ e2
of Ti3+ :Al2 O3 , for which laser pulses shorter than 5 fs radius), as was done by Alford et al. [11.1169]. Using
Part C 11.2

have been realized. However, one has to keep in mind a 35 W Tm3+ :YAlO3 as the pump laser, a continuous-
that bandwidth is not the only important parameter for wave output power of 7 W at 2.51 µm was achieved.
ultrashort-pulse generation. Other important parameters Besides ZnSe, other chalcogenide and mixed chalco-
are the nonlinearities of the material and the thermal genide host materials for the Cr2+ ion are also suitable
lensing introduced by the high peak power, which oc- for efficient laser oscillation. For Cr2+ -doped ZnS, the
curs in the mode-locked regime. Only recently Sorokina spectroscopic characteristics are very similar to those
et al. [11.1163] obtained mode-locking in the fs regime, of Cr2+ :ZnSe. From the material point of view, ZnS
after a lot of work was spent in order to understand even seems to have some advantages over ZnSe as ZnS
the mechanisms behind the pulse-forming processes and has a higher bandgap energy (3.84 eV for ZnS, 2.83 eV
how they can be controlled. In Table 11.30 the main for ZnSe), a higher hardness, a higher thermal con-
spectroscopic data for the Cr2+ -doped chalcogenides are ductivity [27 W/mK for ZnS (cubic phase), 19 W/mK
summarized in comparison to the data for Ti3+ :Al2 O3 . for ZnSe] and a lower dn/ dT (46 × 10−6 1/K for ZnS,
For the tetrahedrally coordinated Cr2+ ion strong 70 × 10−6 1/K for ZnSe) (Table 11.29). However, ZnS
ESA transitions due to inner-shell 3d transitions are is much more difficult to grow and many different
not expected, because all possible transitions are sup- structure types exist. Thus far, the obtained laser re-
posed to be spin-forbidden. This assumption was proven sults for Cr2+ :ZnS are not as good as the results for
by ESA measurements [11.1145, 1164] (Fig. 11.85). Cr2+ :ZnSe (Table 11.31). The highest output power ob-
Neither in the spectral region of the ground-state ab- tained was about 700 mW at an absorbed pump power
sorption nor in the emission region is ESA observed. of 2.65 W from an Er-doped fiber laser [11.1170, 1171].
Tunability up to and beyond 3 µm was predicted for The thresholds are around 100 mW and are thus com-
Cr2+ :ZnSe [11.1145]. This prediction was later proven parable to those observed for Cr2+ :ZnSe. The widest
with laser experiments, where laser oscillation was ob- tuning range obtained so far is 2110–2840 nm. The
served up to 3100 nm [11.1165]. highest slope efficiency in CW regime is about 40%.
Direct diode pumping has also been realized, with an
Laser results. Laser materials based on the Cr2+ ion output power of 25 mW at an absorbed pump power
as the active ion have been investigated since the mid of 570 mW [11.1170]. However, in the same setup
1990s. Nowadays, Cr2+ lasers are operating in a vari- a Cr2+ :ZnSe laser showed better results. Investigations
ety of different operation schemes and under different revealed that the passive losses of the Cr2+ :ZnS crys-
excitation sources. In Table 11.31 an overview of the tal (14%/cm) were much higher than the losses from the
obtained laser results is given. Cr2+ :ZnSe crystal (4%/cm), indicating the larger prob-
The best laser results were thus far obtained for lems with crystal growth and crystal quality in the case
Cr2+ :ZnSe. In different setups using different pump of Cr2+ :ZnS compared to Cr2+ :ZnSe.
sources (Tm3+ lasers, Co2+ :MgF2 lasers, diode lasers Compared to ZnSe and ZnS, the thermal properties
between 1.54 µm and 2.0 µm, erbium-doped fiber am- and material parameters of Cd0.55 Mn0.45 Te are much
plifiers) slope efficiencies up to 73%, output powers up worse, i. e., the dn/ dT is higher and the thermal con-
to 7 W, thresholds lower than 100 mW, a tuning range of ductivity is lower (Table 11.29). Therefore, efficient
2000–3100 nm and mode locking with pulse durations laser operation was only achieved under pulsed pump-
as short as ≈ 100 fs were obtained (Table 11.31). McKay ing [11.1153]. An output power of 170 mW with a slope
and coworkers [11.1166] reported results of a thin-disc efficiency of 64% was realized for a repetition rate of
laser setup for a Cr2+ :ZnSe laser, a setup that was suc- 2 Hz; the tuning range was 2.17–3.01 µm [11.1153].
cessfully applied to Yb-doped laser materials [11.1167]. Mond et al. [11.1172] reported diode-pumped CW op-
This setup appears to be favorable also for Cr2+ :ZnSe, eration with an output power of 6 mW and a slope
because Wagner et al. [11.1168] reported on thermal efficiency of 4%. A thermal rollover at higher pump
rollover in the case of high-power pumping. In McKay’s powers was observed, indicating the strong thermal lens-
Lasers and Coherent Light Sources 11.2 Solid-State Lasers 689

Table 11.31 Overview of the laser results obtained for Cr2+ -doped materials
ZnS ZnSe Cd0.85 Mn0.15 Te Cd0.55 Mn0.45 Te CdSe CdTe
λlaser (nm) 2350 [11.1149, 1173] 2350 [11.1149] 2515 nm [11.1152] 2550 [11.1153] 2600 [11.1174] 2535
2500 [11.1145] 2660 nm [11.1175] [11.1176]
2600 [11.1164]
3000 [11.1164]

Part C 11.2
ηsl (%) 40 [11.1170] 73 [11.1145] 44 [11.1175] 64 [11.1153] 50 [11.1177] 1 [11.1176]
Tuning (nm) 2050–2400 2000–3100 2300– 2600 2170–3010 2400–3400
[11.1178] [11.1165] [11.1175] [11.1153] [11.1179]
Pout or E out 0.1 mJ 7W 0.6 mJ 170 mW (2 Hz) 0.5 mJ pulsed
[11.1149, 1173] [11.1169] [11.1175] [11.1153] mode
Pulse length (ML) 4.4 ps [11.1180,
≈ 4 ps [11.1182]
≈ 100 fs
Other references
Pulsed [11.1149–1151, [11.1149–1151, [11.1152, 1175, 1183] [11.1153, 1183] [11.1174, 1177,
1170, 1171, 1173, 1173] 1179, 1184]
CW [11.1145, 1164,
1168, 1185–
Gain-switched [11.1190]
Diode pumped [11.1145, 1165,
1172, 1191–
Mode-locked [11.1180, 1182]
Thin disc [11.1166]
Multi-wavelength [11.1199]

ing problems. The threshold pump power was only was 815 mW [11.1184] while the largest tuning range
120 mW. This low value is expected from the spec- achieved thus far is 2.4–3.4 µm [11.1179].
troscopic parameters. Under diode pumping at a duty
cycle of 1:4, the thermal rollover is not observed at the Outlook for Cr2+ systems. Cr2+ -doped materials are
pump powers available. Then the highest output power highly efficient lasers in a very interesting wavelength
is 15 mW with a slope efficiency of 5% and a threshold range for application; see the overview in Table 11.31.
of ≈ 100 mW. In all materials investigated, the material parameters are
Cr2+ :CdSe exhibits a similar behavior to still a large problem, i. e., the quality of the crystals, the
Cr :Cd0.55 Mn0.45 Te, as expected from the material strong thermal lensing, the high nonlinearity, yielding
parameters and spectroscopic characteristics. Thus also a strong tendency for self-focusing, and the relatively
strong thermal lensing and power-handling problems are low damage threshold. All these problems are most se-
encountered in the laser experiments. CW laser opera- vere for CdMnTe and CdSe. Therefore, the thin-disc
tion has not yet been reported, however, the laser results setup may be a way to overcome some of these prob-
under pulsed pumping are very promising. Using a Q- lems. Another alternative is the use of larger pump and
switched Tm,Ho:YAG laser operating at 2.05 µm with laser modes. As far as ultrashort-pulse generation is con-
a repetition rate of 1 kHz, a maximum output energy cerned, Sorokina et al. recently realized mode locking in
of 0.5 mJ per pulse and a slope efficiency of 50% was the fs regime [11.1163]. Thus far, only a few materials
obtained [11.1177]. The highest average output power have been investigated for laser applications. Therefore,
690 Part C Coherent and Incoherent Light Sources

there is the possibility to look for different host materials 1

for the tetrahedral Cr2+ ion, e.g., ZnGa2 S4 , ZnGa2 Se4 , E/B T 2, 1E 3
T1b 1T1 1
T2 3
CaGa2 S4 , and CaGa2 Se4 .

Other transition-metal-ion lasers. 3

V2+ lasers. The V2+ ion is isoelectronic to the Cr3+ 40
ion. Therefore, its energy-level scheme can also be A2
Part C 11.2

described with the Tanabe–Sugano diagram shown in

Fig. 11.81. The absorption spectra of octahedrally coor- 30
dinated V2+ is similar to that of Cr3+ , but red-shifted
due to the lower valence of the V2+ ion. The spectra 1
are dominated by the three broad spin-allowed bands 1
20 E
due to transitions between the 4 A2 (4 F) ground state 1
and the 4 T2 (4 F), 4 T1 (4 F), and 4 T1 (4 P) excited states. 3
The emission spectra consist of a broad band due to
the 4 T2 (4 F) → 4 A2 (4 F) transition, also shifted to longer 10
wavelengths compared to the emission spectra of Cr3+ .
Laser oscillation with V2+ on the 4 T2 (4 F) → 4 A2 (4 F) Ni2+ 3
transition was realized only in MgF2 [11.1200–1202] 3
F 0
0 2 4
and CsCaF3 [11.1203, 1204]. An overview of the ob- Dq/B
tained laser results is given in Table 11.31. The laser
efficiencies are very low. Payne et al. [11.44, 1205] and Fig. 11.86 Tanabe–Sugano diagram for the d8 electron con-
Moncorgé et al. [11.1206] found that ESA is the domi- figuration. The dashed area corresponds to the Dq/B values
nant loss mechanism for laser oscillation. In some mater- of Ni2+
ials nonradiative decay also competes with the emission,
leading to small emission quantum efficiencies. measurements of the ESA for several Ni2+ -doped crys-
tals were performed by Koetke et al. [11.1207, 1208].
Ni2+ lasers. The energy-level scheme of octahedrally With increasing temperature the excited-state absorp-
coordinated Ni2+ in crystals can be described with the tion and ground-state absorption bands become broader
Tanabe–Sugano diagram shown in Fig. 11.86. In the and thus overlap to a larger extent with the stimu-
absorption spectra, three bands according to the spin- lated emission. As a result, the spectral region where
allowed transitions from the 3 A2 (3 F) ground state to the σeff = σse − σESA > 0 becomes narrower. Furthermore,
3 T (3 F), 3 T (3 F), and 3 T (3 P) excited states are ob- the losses due to ground-state absorption increase. How-
2 1a 1b
served. The laser transition of Ni2+ lies in the infrared ever, at low temperatures output powers up to 10 W and
spectral range due to the 3 T2 (3 F) → 3 A2 (3 F) transition. slope efficiencies up to 57% were obtained [11.1202].
Its spectral position is strongly wavelength dependent
(Table 11.33). The emission lifetime is typically on the Mn5+ lasers. The Mn5+ ion incorporates into crys-
order of ms and the emission quantum efficiency is near tals mainly at tetrahedrally coordinated lattice sites. Its
unity at room temperature in most materials. energy-level scheme can be described with the Tanabe–
Despite these advantageous spectroscopic data, laser Sugano diagram shown in Fig. 11.82. Compared to Cr4+ ,
oscillation with Ni2+ was obtained only at temperatures the crystal field is higher due to the higher valence
below 240 K and only in a few materials (Table 11.33). state, thus the Mn5+ ion exhibits narrow-line emis-
The absence of laser oscillation at room temperature can sion due to the 1 E(1 D) → 3 A2 (3 F) transition. Optical
be explained by excited-state absorption (ESA), which properties of Mn5+ ions in solids have been under
overlaps with the spectral range of emission. Detailed investigation for more than 30 years [11.1209–1217].

Table 11.32 Overview of V2+ -laser materials

Host material λlaser (nm) Tuning range (nm) T (K) Mode of operation Pout /Eout η (%) Ref.
MgF2 1121 1070–1150 77 pulsed [11.1200–1202]
CsCaF3 1280 1240–1330 80 CW ≈ 15 µW 0.06 [11.1203, 1204]
Lasers and Coherent Light Sources 11.2 Solid-State Lasers 691

Table 11.33 Overview of the results of Ni2+ lasers

Host material λlaser (nm) Tuning range T (K) Mode of operation Pout /Eout η (%) Ref.
MgO 1314.4 77 Pulsed [11.1200]
1318 80 CW 10 W 57 [11.1202,
≈ 1320 [11.1202]

Part C 11.2
≈ 1410 [11.1202]
MgF2 1610–1740 89 CW, CW-Q-qw 1.85 W 28 [11.1202]
1608–1730 80 CW 185 mW 10 [11.1224]
1610–1740 80 CW ≈ 100 mW [11.1225,
1670 80 QS (480 ns) 25 mW (1 kHz) [11.1225]
1610–1730 ML (23 ps) ≈ 100 mW [11.1227]
1623 77 Pulsed [11.1200,
1228, 1229]
1630 20–90 CW 1.74 W 37 [11.1230]
1730–1750 100–200 CW ≈ 0.5 W [11.1230]
1636 77–82 Pulsed [11.1200]
1674–1676 82–100 Pulsed, CW [11.1200]
1731–1756 100–192 Pulsed, CW [11.1200]
1785–1797 198–240 Pulsed [11.1200]
MnF2 1865 20 Pulsed [11.1200]
1915 77 Pulsed [11.1200]
1922 77 Pulsed [11.1200]
1929 85 CW (exc.) [11.1200]
1939 85 CW (exc.) [11.1200]
KMgF3 1591 77 Pulsed [11.1231]
CaY2 Mg2 Ge3 O12 1460 80 Pulsed ≈ 3.8 mJ 0.7 [11.1202,
Gd3 Ga5 O12 1434–1520 100 Pulsed 6 [11.1207,

Mn5+ laser operation at room temperature was demon- energy level. However, thus far Mn5+ systems exhibiting
strated by Merkle et al. in Ba3 (VO4 )2 , Sr3 (VO4 )2 , broadband emission are not known.
and in Sr5 (VO4 )3 F [11.1218–1220]. The laser tran-
sition is realized between the 1 E(1 D) excited state Co2+ lasers. The Co2+ ion in octahedral coordination ex-
and the 3 A2 (3 F) ground state, thus these lasers are hibits laser oscillation in the mid-infrared spectral region
three-level systems. The efficiency is rather low (laser between 1.5 µm and 2.5 µm. Its energy-level scheme
output energy ∼ µJ, ηsl ≤ 1.6%) and laser oscillation can be described with the Tanabe–Sugano diagram for
from other Mn5+ systems has not been reported. The the 3d7 electron configuration shown in Fig. 11.87.
major drawback for these lasers is the excited-state Three broad and spin-allowed transitions between the
absorption at the stimulated-emission wavelength. In- 4T 4 4 4
1a ground state and the T2 , A2 and T1b ex-
vestigations of the excited-state absorption and gain cited states exist. In MgF2 , these transitions are located
were performed in detail by Verdún [11.1217], Merkle around 7000 cm−1 , 15 000 cm−1 , and 20 000 cm−1 , re-
et al. [11.1218], Manaa et al. [11.1221] and Kück spectively [11.1233]. The emission occurs between
et al. [11.933, 1222]. 1.5 µm and 2.5 µm, according to the 4 T2 → 4 T1a transi-
To obtain a four-level system, one should search tion. At low temperatures, the lifetimes are on the order
for crystals with low crystal field strengths or with of several ms, while at room temperature the emis-
large energy-level splittings. Then the 3 T2 (3 F) or one sion is strongly quenched due to nonradiative decay
of its crystal field components would be the lowest- via multiphonon relaxation, yielding very low quantum
692 Part C Coherent and Incoherent Light Sources

Co2+ :MgF2 , which is also a commercial laser system.

E/B 2
A2 4A2 2
With Co2+ :MgF2 an overall tuning range of 1.5–2.5 µm
was realized with output powers up to 4.2 W, output
energies up to 1.6 J and slope efficiencies as high as
4 65%. As the pump source, Nd:YAG or Nd:glass lasers
around 1.3 µm are usually used, however, laser oscilla-
50 tion has also been realized under flashlamp pumping,
Part C 11.2

argon-ion laser excitation and oxygen–iodine laser exci-

tation. Operation regimes are CW, pulsed, Q-switched
2 T2
F 2
and mode-locked.

30 Fe2+ lasers. The Fe2+ ion has a 3d6 electron configu-

ration that is complementary to that of Cr2+ . The 5 D
free-ion state also splits into a 5 T2 and a 5 E state,
G however, for the Fe2+ ion 5 E is the ground state and
P 5 T is the first excited state. Consequently, there is just
T2 2
2 one spin-allowed absorption (5 E → 5 T2 ) and emission
(5 T2 → 5 E) transition. As for the Cr2+ ion, all excited-
4 2
F 0 E state transitions are spin-forbidden. Thus, one might
0 1 2 3 4
expect similar laser characteristics for Fe2+ -doped lasers
as for Cr2+ lasers. However, the energy gap between the
5 T excited state and the 5 E ground state is smaller, thus
Fig. 11.87 Tanabe–Sugano diagram for the d7 configuration 2
(after [11.36]) the emission is at longer wavelengths and the nonradia-
tive decay rate is higher, leading to lifetime shortening
efficiencies [11.1234]. Excited-state absorption over- and low quantum efficiencies at elevated temperatures.
laps with the 4 T1a → 4 T2 absorption band, which is For Fe2+ :ZnSe, the emission lifetime first increases from
the main pump band for laser operation. In the region 12 to 120 K from 33 µs to 105 µs and then decreases to
of stimulated emission, the excited-state absorption is about 5 µs at 250 K due to thermally activated multi-
negligible [11.1233]. phonon decay [11.1235, 1236]. At 14 K, the 5 E → 5 T2
Laser oscillation was obtained in the continuous- absorption band is between 2.5 µm and 3.75 µm, and the
wave regime only at cryogenic temperatures, while 5 T → 5 E emission band is between 3.7 µm and 4.8 µm.
pulsed laser operation was also realized at room temper- Laser oscillation of Fe2+ was obtained in
ature for Co2+ -doped MgF2 and KZnF3 . An overview ZnSe [11.1235–1239] and in n-InP [11.1240]. For
of the laser results for Co2+ laser systems is given in Fe2+ :ZnSe, room-temperature tunable laser oscil-
Table 11.35. The best laser results were obtained for lation was recently reported in a gain-switched
Table 11.34 Overview of Mn5+ -laser materials. The data are from the literature stated in the text [11.1209, 1222]
Ba3 (VO4 )2 Sr3 (VO4 )2 Sr5 (VO4 )3 F
Structure Hexagonal, R-3m Hexagonal, R-3m Hexagonal, P63 /m
Site symmetry C3v (V-site) C3v (V-site) Cs (V-site)
Growth Czochralski/LHPG Czochralski/LHPG Czochralski
Tm (◦ C) 1560 1923
σabs (10−20 cm2 ) ≈ 300 ( 800 nm) ≈ 300 ( 800 nm)
σem (10−20 cm2 ) 10–20 27 (E  c), 13 (E⊥c)
σESA (10−20 cm2 ) 14 (E  c), 24 (E⊥c)
τem (300 K) (µs) 430–480 525 475–500
σem τ (10−22 cm−2 s−1 ) ≈ 0.7 ≈ 1.3 (E  c), ≈ 0.6 (E⊥c)
λlaser (nm) 1181.0 1168.0 1163.7
ηsl (%) 0.21 0.08 1.6
Pout or E out ≈ 2 µJ ≈ 1 µJ
Lasers and Coherent Light Sources 11.2 Solid-State Lasers 693

Table 11.35 Overview of Co2+ -laser materials. (*: versus input power, QS: Q-switched operation, ML: mode-locked
Host material λlaser (nm) λlaser (nm) T (K) Mode of operation Pout /Eout η (%) Ref.
MgF2 1860 1500–2000 80 CW 1W 31 [11.1241]
1920 1600–2300 80 Pulsed 150 mJ 65 [11.1202, 1242,
1920 80 Pulsed 7.3 W (50 Hz) ≈ 23∗ [11.1242,1243]

Part C 11.2
1920 QS (220 ns) 25 mJ [11.1242,1243]
1940 225 Pulsed ≈ 11 mJ 14∗ [11.1243]
1920 80 4.2 W 28∗ [11.1202,1243]
2100 1750–2500 RT Pulsed 70 mJ 46 [11.1244]
1650–2010 80 ML (34 ps) [11.1227]
1500–2000 QS-ML (200 ps) 400 mW (ave) [11.1245]
1600–1900 77 QS (600 ns) 15 mJ [11.1246]
1890 1600–2150 77 CW 2W 32 [11.1247]
2050 RT Pulsed 0.2 mJ 29 [11.1248]
2050 77 Pulsed 1.6 J 44 [11.1249]
2040 1960–2180 RT Pulsed 20 mJ 25 [11.1233]
1630–2080 80 CW ≈ 100 mW 5 [11.1226,1250]
1750 77 Pulsed [11.1200,1251]
2060 1800–2450 282 Pulsed 900 mJ 33∗ [11.1252]
1803.5 77 Pulsed [11.1200,1251]
1990 77 Pulsed [11.1200,1251]
2050 77 Pulsed [11.1200,1251]

KMgF3 1620–1900 80 CW 20 [11.1253]

1821 77 Pulsed [11.1200]
KZnF3 1650–2110 80 30 [11.1253]
1770 1650–2070 80 120 mW [11.1254]
1950 1850–2050 85 CW ≈ 20 mW ≈2 [11.1255]
1700–2150 98 CW ≈ 55 mW 8 [11.1256]
2024 300 Pulsed 3 mJ 8 [11.1233]
ZnF2 2165 77 Pulsed [11.1200,1251]

mode [11.1237]. The pump source was the second It was shown that they are efficient (usually tunable)
Stokes output of a Nd:YAG laser at 2.92 µm. The out- laser sources covering a wide spectral range (Fig. 11.77).
put pulse energy was about 1 µJ. The highest output However, compared to lasers based on 4fn →4fn transi-
power and slope efficiency of 12 µJ and 8.2%, respec- tions of trivalent rare-earth ions, they play only a small
tively, were obtained at lower temperatures. In this case, role as far as commercialization is concerned. In prin-
the Fe2+ :ZnSe laser was pumped by a pulsed Er3+ :YAG ciple only the Ti3+ :Al2 O3 and – with limitations – the
laser operating at 2.698 µm [11.1235, 1236]. The laser Cr3+ :BeAl2 O4 laser can be mentioned. These lasers are
wavelength is tunable with temperature from 3.98 µm at mainly used in the field of scientific research. The main
15 K to 4.54 µm at 180 K. In n-InP, Fe2+ laser oscillation reason for this is that their advantages, i. e., their tunabil-
was obtained at 2 K at 3.53 µm, i. e., at the zero-phonon ity and their capability to generate ultrashort pulses, are
transition [11.1240]. not relevant for most industrial applications. They ex-
hibit lower output power than lasers based on 4fn →4fn
Summary transitions of trivalent rare-earth ions (e.g., Nd3+ :YAG,
In this chapter an overview of transition-metal-ion- Yb3+ :YAG) and are more expensive and less efficient
doped crystals as solid-state laser materials is given. than diode lasers. Direct diode-laser pumping is either
694 Part C Coherent and Incoherent Light Sources

Table 11.36 Overview about transition-metal ions sorted according to the corresponding Tanabe–Sugano diagram dn
(TSD-dn ). Normal: octahedral coordination; italic: tetrahedral coordination. Light brown: laser oscillation in octahedral
coordination; Dark brown: laser oscillation in tetrahedral coordination. (After [11.933])
Ion TSD-d1 TSD-d2 TSD-d3 TSD-d4 TSD-d5 TSD-d6 TSD-d7 TSD-d8 TSD-d9
Ti Ti3+ Ti2+
V V4+ V3+ V2+ V3+ V4+
Part C 11.2

Cr Cr4+ Cr3+ Cr2+ Cr2+ Cr4+ Cr5+

Mn Mn5+ Mn4+ Mn3+ Mn2+ , Mn2+ Mn3+ Mn5+ Mn6+
Fe Fe2+ Fe3+ , Fe3+ Fe2+ Fe6+
Co Co3+ Co2+ Co3+ Co2+
Ni Ni2+ Ni3+ Ni3+ Ni2+
Cu Cu2+ Cu3+ Cu2+

inefficient or – in the case of Cr3+ and Cr2+ lasers in the pump channel, which also affects the overall
– requires laser diodes that are not yet available at laser characteristics. Thus, its general influence depends
a satisfactory price and quality on the market. strongly on the material parameters of the laser sys-
Transition-metal-ion and especially tunable laser tem, i. e., mainly of the host material. Materials with
systems exhibit a stronger coupling of the electronic a high thermal conductivity and mechanical strength are
levels to the vibrating lattice of the crystal. This leads to favored. As an example, Cr4+ :Y3 Al5 O12 can be given.
higher possibilities for ESA and nonradiative decay pro- Here, the quantum efficiency is less than 20%, whereas
cesses compared to the 4fn →4fn transitions of trivalent laser operation with a slope efficiency close to 40% was
rare-earth ions in crystals. realized.
The main problem in realizing efficient laser oscilla- Table 11.36 gives an overview of the transition-
tion is the excited-state absorption from the metastable metal ions in octahedral and tetrahedral coordination
upper laser level. From (11.87) and (11.88) its ef- investigated to date. They are listed according to
fect on laser threshold and slope efficiency becomes their corresponding energy-level diagram (i. e., Tanabe–
clear. It occurs in principle for every electron configura- Sugano diagram). The laser-active transition-metal ions
tion, either as intra- or interconfigurational transitions are indicated. Almost all transition-metal ions with dif-
or as a transition to charge transfer or conduction- ferent valence states and ligand coordinations have been
band-related levels. The electron configurations are in investigated thus far. Efficient room-temperature laser
general favorable, when intraconfigurational excited- oscillation was only obtained for Ti3+ and Cr3+ in
state absorption transitions are not possible, e.g., in octahedral and for Cr2+ and Cr4+ in tetrahedral co-
the d1 and d9 configuration, or are less strong due to ordination. Whether efficient laser operation will also
selection rules, e.g., in the d4 and d6 configurations. be obtained for other ions depends very much on the
Other configurations exhibit more-complex energy-level host material chosen. For example, the Ti3+ ion ex-
schemes, therefore intraconfigurational ESA transitions hibits efficient laser operation only in Al2 O3 . Therefore,
occur with high probability in the spectral regions of other ions cannot a priori be excluded as efficient laser
emission and excitation. The influence of ESA, how- ions.
ever, can even in this case be reduced, e.g., by taking
advantage of polarization-dependent transition rules, 11.2.6 Overview of the most Important
which result in higher stimulated-emission cross sec- Laser Ions in Solid-State Lasers
tions than ESA cross sections, as it is the case, e.g., for
Cr3+ :LiSrAlF6 and Cr4+ :Y3 Al5 O12 . Research on laser materials has created a number of
The role of nonradiative decay for the realization compact, efficient solid-state laser sources for a large
of efficient laser operation is less important, although variety of applications. Laser materials have been de-
not negligible. It affects to a first approximation only veloped for various wavelengths (near-infrared, visible,
the laser threshold, which is increased (11.84). How- UV) and power regimes (mW to multi-kW). Spe-
ever, a nonradiative rate leads to a temperature increase cial geometries of the active material (microchip, rod,
Lasers and Coherent Light Sources 11.3 Semiconductor Lasers 695

disc, fiber) strongly correlate with the active ion con- Near-IR rare-earth lasers.
centrations and cross sections of absorption and gain Nd3+ 0.9, 1.06, 1.3 µm
transitions. Yb3+ 1–1.1 µm
The values of the cross sections depend on the quan- Tm3+ 2 µm, 1.5 µm (upconversion)
tum numbers of the final and initial states as well as on Ho3+ 2 µm
the local environment of the active-ion site in the mater- Er3+ 1.6, 3 µm, 0.85 µm (upconversion)
ial. The lifetimes of the states are influenced by radiative

Part C 11.3
and nonradiative transitions. So, the microscopic crystal Visible rare-earth lasers.
properties play an important role for static and dynamic
processes in the laser crystal. Pr3+ 0.64 µm (diode-pumped)
In the near-infrared spectral region high efficien- Pr3+ ,Yb3+ 0.52, 0.63 µm (upconversion)
cies have been achieved with diode-pumped oxide- Er3+ 0.55 µm (upconversion)
and fluoride-based laser materials doped with the rare- Tm3+ 0.45, 0.48, 0.51, 0.65, 0.79 µm (up-
earth ions Nd3+ , Tm3+ , Ho3+ , Er3+ , and Yb3+ . For conversion)
high-average-power operation Nd3+ - and Yb3+ -doped
crystals are of greatest interest. Especially the Yb3+ Frequency doubling of near IR rare-earth lasers (Nd, Yb)
ion exhibits very small Stokes losses and minimum heat
generation, which reduces thermal lensing and improves UV rare-earth lasers.
beam quality. Transition-metal-doped crystals based on Ce3+ 0.3 µm
the ions Ti3+ , Cr2+ , Cr3+ , and Cr4+ offer broadly tun-
able radiation within the spectral region 680–3000 nm. Frequency doubling of visible rare-earth lasers
In the visible region Er3+ -, Tm3+ -, and Pr3+ -doped Frequency tripling/quadrupling of near-IR lasers
laser materials operate at several red, green, and blue
transitions with laser diode upconversion and/or direct Transition-metal lasers.
pumping. So far Ce3+ is the only ion with reasonable Ti3+ 0.68–1.1 µm
direct laser performance in the UV. Cr3+ 0.7–1.1 µm
The following wavelength data provide a rough Cr4+ 1.2–1.6 µm
guide to the spectral range of the various laser ions. Cr2+ 2–3 µm

11.3 Semiconductor Lasers

11.3.1 Overview a much higher density of electrons than holes and in the
VB close to E V a much higher density of holes than elec-
In crystalline solids the interaction between atomic trons. This extremely nonthermal condition is generated
energy levels generates energy bands. A quantum- by strong electrical or optical pumping of the laser-active
mechanical treatment provides, in the single-electron material. The electrical carrier injection in most cases is
approximation, energy bands which overlap which each obtained by a p–i–n heterojunction made of III/V semi-
other or are separated by bandgaps from each other. conductor materials. Choosing InP as a typical example,
In semiconductors, we find between the energetically Fig. 11.88 displays a planarization (projection into 2-
highest band, which is fully occupied by electrons at D space for simplification) of the real 3-D zinkblende
T = 0 K, the valence band (VB), and the energetically crystal structure with the corresponding band structures
lowest band, which is completely empty at T = 0 K the below. From the left to the right p-InP, intrinsic i-InP
conduction band (CB) an energy range, in which we and p-InP are shown.
find no allowed energy states, disregarding energy states In the highly p-doped InP bulk regions, at room tem-
originating from dopants. This bandgap, E g , is the en- perature nearly all acceptors have released their holes
ergy difference between the lower conduction-band edge into the valence band. Well away from the pn junc-
E C and the upper valence-band edge E V . For laser op- tion the hole field current (drift current) dominates the
eration an extreme deviation from thermal equilibrium carrier transport. At the left edge of the device, holes
(nonthermal carrier distribution) is required: carrier in- are generated under the p contact. At the right edge of
version. In the CB close to E C carrier inversion means the device, electrons are injected through the n contact.
696 Part C Coherent and Incoherent Light Sources

p-doped i = intrinsic, undoped n-doped

a) c) e)

In P In P In P In P In P In P

P Be P In P In P In P In S In
Part C 11.3

In P In P In P In P In P In P

b) E d) E f) E





y Space y y

Fig. 11.88a–f Schematic of a planarized lattice structure of p-doped, undoped and n-doped InP (a,c,e). Below are the
corresponding band structures in space (b,d,f). The dopants are indicated by squares, the full lines indicate the movement
of electrons, the broken line the movement of defect electrons (=holes) in space and the dotted line the movement of holes
on the VB

Well away from the pn junction the electron field cur- electrically confines electrons in the CB and holes in
rent dominates the carrier transport there. The bandgap the VB, which is visualized by the band edge. Since
E g nearly equals the energy of the photons generated in for semiconductors decreasing E g in nearly all cases
the central intrinsic region. However, such a homojunc- increases the refractive index n we fortunately obtain
tion p–i–n structure (Fig. 11.88) suffers from enormous an optical waveguide: a central higher-n material em-
carrier leakage and the lack of a medium guiding the bedded in a lower-index material (Fig. 11.89c). Thus,
generated light. To enable operation at room temperature the laser-active layer is the core layer of the waveguide
and considerably reduce the threshold currents at least at the same time. By a proper design, essentially of
a double heterostructure (heterojunction p–i–n structure) the refractive index differences and dimensions, we can
is required (Fig. 11.89). This Nobel-prize-winning idea efficiently guide the generated light in a fundamental
by Koemer and Alferov [11.1257, 1258] enables carrier mode (see the profile in Fig. 11.89c) similar to a single-
confinement and optical confinement by a single impor- mode optical fibre. Considering an edge-emitting laser,
tant modification: using higher-bandgap E g materials the structure is now p–i–n doped and forward-biased
for the p and n regions compared to the central intrin- (Fig. 11.89d), enabling the carrier transport described
sic active layer. Thus, for semiconductor lasers at least above: hole injection from the left and electron injec-
two different materials are required, as shown in space tion from right. The band structure (Fig. 11.89e) of the
z(x, y) (Fig. 11.89a) and in the band structure E(y, z) in doped and biased laser structure visualizes the operation
space (Fig. 11.89b) for an undoped and unbiased struc- of the p–i heterointerface acting as a border (electrical
ture. The central layer (material 1) has a lower E g than confinement) for the electrons. The small potential bar-
the embedding bulk layers (materials 2) and therefore rier at the i–n heterointerface is no real obstacle. The
Lasers and Coherent Light Sources 11.3 Semiconductor Lasers 697

electrons can tunnel through or thermally jump across. semiconductor lasers, however, include quantum wells
In analogy, the p–i heterointerface is no real obstacle (QWs, a 2-D carrier system) [11.1259] or quantum dots
for the holes, whereas the n–i heterointerface provides (QDs, a 0-D carrier system) [11.1260] as the laser-active
the required border (electrical confinement). Modern medium, instead of a 3-D laser-active region in bulk

a) d)

Part C 11.3
i i i p i n

Material Material Material

2 1 2


b) Undoped, unbiased e) Doped, biased




Energy E


c) f)


light field

Fig. 11.89a–f Undoped and unbiased (a,b) and doped and biased (d,e,f) separate confinement heterostructures, (a,d)
schematic layer structure in space, (b,e,f) the corresponding band structures in space. The laser active layer is either 3-D
(e) or 2-D (f). (c) refractive-index profile and the fundamental guided mode for the cases (a-d)
698 Part C Coherent and Incoherent Light Sources

Fig. 11.90 Schematic of a semiconductor laser with 3-D

laser-active layer and buried waveguide. Insets: refractive
index profiles and mode profiles in the x- and y-directions
intersecting the active layer at A and B, respectively
Cross si
section B lasers (Fig. 11.89e). In Fig. 11.89f two QWs are depicted
p as an example, providing the emission energy as the dif-
Part C 11.3

A si ference between the energetically lowest bound states in

y the wells (note that the ordinate indicates the electron
n energy).
z Finally, electrical and optical confinement in the y-
direction (Fig. 11.89c) has to be completed by electrical
and optical confinement in the x-direction (Fig. 11.90).
Mode profile Note that this figure is rotated by 90◦ with respect to
Refractive Fig. 11.89. In Fig. 11.90 the active material is embed-
index Cross section A
ded in the x-direction by semi-insulating (si) material
to force the current to move mainly in the active layers
(lateral electrical confinement). The si material is cho-
Energy (eV) sen to have a higher bandgap, and thus a lower refractive
a) hh1
Well band edge b) 4 nm GaAs/Al0.15Ga0.85As index, than the active material (lateral optical confine-
–0.02 hh1 ment). Also in this case, wave guiding is applied in the x-
Bulk effective
lh1 masses m *hh, m*lh and z-directions. This is shown in the two insets by the
–0.04 lh1 two cross sections A and B, showing the refractive-index
profiles and light-intensity profiles. Here, waveguiding
–0.06 in fundamental mode is shown for the case of bulk 3-D
hh2 active layers.
lh2 Barrier band edge 4 nm Well band edge
–0.1 hh1 11.3.2 Resonator Types
and Modern Active Layer Materials:
–0.12 lh1 Quantum Effects and Strain
AlGaAs GaAs AlGaAs
–0.14 hh2 Barrier band edge
8 nm GaAs/Al0.15Ga0.85As Modern optoelectronic semiconductor devices are based
on a sequence of materials of different composition. Em-
c) 8 nm GaAs/Al0.3Ga0.7As d) Well band edge hh bedding a film of lower E g between a material of larger
–0.02 hh1
E g , we obtain quantization effects if the film thickness
hh1 L y is on the order of the electron wavelength or below
lh1 Well band edge lh
–0.04 (QW) [11.1259]. Using the Schrödinger equation, we
obtain at least one bound state in the CB and VB poten-
–0.06 tial wells, respectively. The electrons and holes are still
hh2 hh2
fully mobile in the x- and z-directions. This means that
hh3 a wavevector k|| parallel to the heterointerfaces exists.
The motion in the y-direction is considerably restricted
and statistically described by quantum mechanics. Fig-
–0.12 lh2
QW compression = 0.36%
ure 11.91 displays the VB structure in k-space [E(k )]
obtained by a theoretical model calculation [11.1261]
–0.14 8 nm In0.05Ga0.95As/Al0.15Ga0.85As
based on the Schrödinger equation for four different
Ga(In)As/(Al)GaAs QWs (k is oriented parallel to the
0 0.02 0.04 0.06 0.08 0.1 0 0.02 0.04 0.06 0.08 0.1
In-plane wave vector K|| (2ð/a0)
In most cases in addition the QWs and the barriers in
Fig. 11.91 Valence-band structure E(k ) of various Ga(In)As/AlGaAs the active layer are additionally strained [11.1262]. Usu-
QWs [11.1261] ally, the wells are compressively strained, which means
Lasers and Coherent Light Sources 11.3 Semiconductor Lasers 699

a) D (E) a) Quantum dot


2 Substrate
(kx2 + ky2 + kz2)

Part C 11.3
E= 500 nm
2m* b)
b) D (E)
50 nm

E= (kx2 + kz2) + Ey
E1 E2 Ey 50 nm
c) D (E)


2 10 nm
E= + Eyz
Fig. 11.93 (a) From the bottom to the top we see in sequence: the
E11 E12 Eyz three top monolayers of the GaAs substrate, above two compres-
sively strained monolayers InAs (wetting layer, WL), and above the
d) D (E)
main part of the QD. (b) AFM surface profile of InAs QDs (bright
dots). (c,d) TEM micrograph of a double stack of QDs: (c) stack
distance 40 nm with uncorrelated dots and (d) stack distance 20 nm
E = Exyz with vertically aligned dots ((a-d) [11.1261]). (e) TEM micrograph
of a CdSe QD (dark) in a ZnSe matrix (bright) [11.1263]

Strain and quantization effects in the active layers

E111 Exyz of semiconductor lasers are used to improve the device
properties. For the laser it is beneficial to make the effec-
Fig. 11.92a–d Density of states D(E) and corresponding tive masses of electrons and holes as similar as possible,
formula of the band structure in parabolic approximation to increase material gain, to reduce threshold, to tailor
for a (a) semiconductor extending in all three spatial direc- the density of states and to increase differential gain.
tions (3-D), (b) quantum well (QW), (c) quantum wire, and This can be obtained by applying strain and/or quantiza-
(d) quantum dot (QD) tion. In Fig. 11.92, the energy dependence of the density
of states is shown for 3-D material to be root-like, and
that the lattice constant of that layer is compressively to be constant for 2-D material.
reduced in the x- and z-directions to match that of the Figure 11.93 depicts examples of InAs [11.1263]
substrate ao . In many cases, the barriers are in tension, and CdSe [11.1264] QDs. Schematically, Fig. 11.93a
which indicates that the lattice constant of the barriers shows the QD formation in a cross section of the crys-
is increased in the x- and z-directions by tensile strain tal structure. We see the three upper monolayers of the
to be identical to the substrate lattice constant ao . GaAs substrate. During the self-organized QD formation
700 Part C Coherent and Incoherent Light Sources

the intentionally integrated strain (detailed explanation we obtain a 1-D carrier system and, thus, a quantum
below) of the InAs versus GaAs plays an important wire [11.1265] with hyperbolically shaped density of
role. For thermodynamical and elastomechanical rea- states branches. Limitation of carrier movement in all
sons, two monolayers of strained InAs are first formed. three space directions results in quantum dots [11.1260,
Continuing the growth, for total-energy reasons, it is of 1261, 1263–1272], i. e., a zero-dimensional (0-D) car-
considerable advantage for the semiconductor surface to rier system with a δ-like density of states (Fig. 11.92d).
continue by a localized island-like growth. In this case For many physical properties of the semiconductor (e.g.,
Part C 11.3

a possible geometric shape is a pyramid with a base carrier mobilities, carrier capture in quantized states and
plane directly joined to the top of the InAs monolay- spontaneous or stimulated emission of light), the density
ers. Experimentally, this phase can be directly studied of states plays an important role. Using dimensionality
using an atomic force microscope (AFM) [11.1260]. and strain efficiently during the design of lasers en-
Figure 11.93b displays in a top view a typical AFM ables one to enhance desired and suppress undesired
surface profile. In the next process step the QDs are properties. Here, modern epitaxy [e.g., metal organic
overgrown by GaAs and thereby embedded. Experi- chemical vapour deposition (MOCVD) and molecular
mentally the final layer sequence can be studied by beam epitaxy (MBE)] are powerful tools. To date 2-D
transmission electron microscopy (TEM) after cleaving. and 0-D structures have been used successfully for laser
In order to increase the number of QDs in the direc- devices. 1-D structures have not yet had a breakthrough
tion perpendicular to the substrate interface, the whole due to their disadvantageous dynamic properties. QDs
InAs process is repeated as often as desired after a de- are grown today using self-organization in the Stranski–
fined GaAs spacer layer thickness. This provides layered Krastanow growth mode [11.1263,1265,1267,1271]. By
QD arrangements. Figures 11.93c, d show TEM micro- growing a large number of QDs with identical quantized
graphs for two different spacer-layer widths: 40 nm ad energy levels in the laser-active layer, we would bene-
20 nm. We observe a vertical correlation of the dots fit from a strongly reduced temperature sensitivity and
for the smaller separation. At very high magnification a very high differential gain and, thus, extremely high
Fig. 11.93e shows QD formations in the II/VI semicon- bit rates in optical communication. Although many QD
ductor system CdSe/ZnSe; note the different scales in lasers have been implemented, the pyramid-like QDs
the subfigures. This high TEM magnification resolves suffer from strong fluctuations in size and thus in their
the individual crystal layers. The CdSe QD is contrasted energy levels.
dark against the surrounding brighter ZnSe. On the basis of these QDs, however, the aforemen-
However, quantization is not limited to a single di- tioned improvements in device properties have not yet
rection. If we limit the carrier movement in another be demonstrated. On the other hand, the strong fluctua-
direction (e.g., in the z- and y-direction as in Fig. 11.92), tion causes a strongly spectrally broadened gain profile,

Band gap (eV)

6 AlN Direct semiconductor 0.2
Indirect semiconductor

3 0.4
AlP AlAs CdS ZnTe 0.5
2 0.6
AlSb CdTe 0.7
GaAs InP 0.8
Si 1
1 InN 1.3
GaSb 1.55
GaInAsN InSb
2 Wavelength
GaInAsN InAs 5 (µm) Fig. 11.94 Bandgap energy E g (left)
0.3 0.32 0.34 0.36 0.54 0.56 0.58 0.6 0.62 0.64 and bandgap wavelength (right) as
Lattice constant a (nm)
a function of the lattice constant a
Lasers and Coherent Light Sources 11.3 Semiconductor Lasers 701

which is beneficial for other applications, e.g., short- (E g = 1.43 eV) and Ga0.47 In0.53 As (E g = 0.75 eV) have
pulse generation by mode locking or wide spectral the same lattice constant as InP (E g = 1.34 eV), which
tuning of the laser device. However, we should also is available in wafers today up to a diameter of 150 mm.
remember that 10 years were necessary after implement- QW widths (or QD dimensions), effective masses
ing the first QW lasers to demonstrate that QW lasers [more precisely the E(k) functions], and bandgaps of
were superior to bulk lasers. Similarly, QD lasers will well and barrier materials energetically determine the
require time before their final breakthrough. However, quantized states and, thus, the spectral gain profile of

Part C 11.3
we believe that QW and QD lasers will share the ap- the laser, i. e., the possible range of laser emission. Fig-
plication area in the future, depending on the specific ure 11.94 shows that a very large wavelength range can
requirements. be covered for different applications. Some examples
Figure 11.94 shows the dependence of the bandgap are red and blue lasers which are used for data stor-
on the lattice constant for various III/V and II/VI age in digital versatile and blue-ray discs, respectively.
semiconductors. The brown area corresponds to the qua- Emission at about 850 nm is used for short-range opti-
ternary Alz Ga1−x−z Inx N. The grey area describes the cal fibre communication and CD devices, 980 nm lasers
quaternary Ga1−x Inx As1−y Py . For high laser efficien- for pumping Er-doped fibre amplifiers, while between
cies in interband lasers, active materials with a direct 1.25 and 1.65 µm the lasers are applied in ultrahigh-bit-
bandgap are required, disregarding for the moment some rate long-haul optical fibre communication. Visible and
intraband lasers. Note that simple bulk Si has an indirect infrared wavelengths are very attractive for optical sens-
band structure and does not provide efficient radiative re- ing. The range between 0.8 and 1 µm is used for direct
combination. Modified Si structures have demonstrated laser applications (welding, drilling, cutting and solder-
strong luminescence, LED operation or laser oscillation, ing) since it includes lasers with extremely high output
e.g., from Si/Ge superlattices, QDs in Si and Si- power, highest wall-plug efficiencies and lowest price
based Raman laser structures [11.1273]. All compound per watt of optical power.
semiconductors, located on one of the grey vertical Stimulated emission and optical gain (Fig. 11.95)
lines (Fig. 11.94) that indicate the lattice constant of are essentially determined by the product of the re-
important semiconductor substrate materials, can be duced electronic density of states and the Fermi factor
lattice-matched to the respective substrate. Accord- ( f c − f v ). This Fermi factor originates from f c (1 − f v ) –
ing to Fig. 11.94 the ternary compounds Al0.48 In0.52 As f v (1 − f c ), namely the probability of processes photon-

fc – fv fc – fv Dred, 2D
Dred, 3D

Optical-gain g (E)


a) Eg ÄEf E b) Eg Eg' ÄEf E


c) E d) E

Fig. 11.95a–d Profile of optical material gain, spontaneous emission, Fermi factors and the density of states as a function
of energy for (a) 3-D und (b) 2-D materials. Corresponding net gain profiles in (c) and (d)
702 Part C Coherent and Incoherent Light Sources

generating photons (emission), i. e., the probability that the net gain can support the modes (vertical lines) as indi-
the CB states are occupied by electrons and VB states are cated. In Fig. 11.95 the spontaneous emission is shown
not occupied by electrons f c (1 − f v ) minus the probabil- by the thin broken lines, revealing a different spectral
ity of processes destroying photons (reabsorption), i. e., profile, which is important, e.g., for LEDs.
the probability of VB states occupied by electrons and Figure 11.96 depicts a classification summary of the
CB states not occupied by electrons f v (1 − f c ). The full most important semiconductor laser geometries. Most
lines in Fig. 11.95a, b schematically show the spectral of them will be treated in detail below. Generally, the
Part C 11.3

material gain profile of 3-D and 2-D semiconductors, heterointerfaces are located horizontally. We distinguish
respectively. Gain ranges spectrally from the bandgap between horizontal (left) and vertical (right) resonator
E g to the difference between the two quasi-Fermi lev- structures, which is indicated by the orientation of the
els ∆E F . In reality there are additional effects such as broad brown double arrow. Thus, we have horizontal
Fermi-level filling, profile broadening [11.1261] (bold cavity lasers (in-plane lasers) and vertical cavity (VC)
broken line) or many-body effects. Material gain minus lasers.
loss provides net gain (Fig. 11.95c, d). If these laser-
active materials are placed in a Fabry–Pérot (FP) laser First case: Fabry–Pérot (FP) structures. Here the opti-
cal reflection (feedback) is provided by the borders of
a) Horizontal cavity b) Vertcal cavity (VC)
the resonator (facets). In many cases, the high refractive
index difference between the semiconductor and the air
is already sufficient, providing an optical reflection co-
efficient of about 30%. By additional facet coatings this
coefficient can be tailored continuously between 0% (an-
tireflection) and 100% (perfect reflection). The resonator
modes are given by
m FP =L. (11.92)
2n eff
Intuitively, the resonator length L has to be a positive
High facet Low facet integer multiple of half of the wavelength of light in
reflectivity reflectivity the medium, where n eff is the effective refractive index
desired desired DBR 2 (eigenvalue of the Helmholtz equation, see below) of the
waveguide. In the second case, in so-called structures
with distributed feedback (DFB), the optical reflection
Edge Surface is extended over the whole resonator. A very efficient
emitter DBR 1
emitter feedback occurs at the Bragg wavelength λB , which is
correlated with the DFB grating period Λ via the Bragg
VCSEL condition:

m DFB (λB /n eff ) = 2Λ . (11.93)

m DFB is a positive integer and describes the grating

DBR laser order. An example: for a DFB laser emitting at λB =
(2nd order) 1.55 µm having a first-order grating (m DFB = 1) and an
effective refractive index n eff = 3.27, a grating period of
Λ = 237 nm is required. Intuitively, an integer multiple
of the wavelength in the medium has to correspond,
according to (11.93), to the double grating period. Note
External that the mathematical structure of (11.92) and (11.93) is
identical. In lasers with a typical length of 200 µm we
obatin for FP laser modes within the gain profile a very
Fig. 11.96 Different geometries of lasers with horizontal (left) and large m FP (on the order of 1000) while for DFB lasers
vertical resonators (right) in most cases m DFB is 1 (for a first-order grating).
Lasers and Coherent Light Sources 11.3 Semiconductor Lasers 703

As expected, light is emitted in horizontal directions can be obtained by an injection of electrons and holes
for edge-emitting lasers (Fig. 11.96). Surface emitters via a forward-biased pn junction (see Figs. 11.89, 90).
can be implemented by etching an out-coupling mirror The electrons injected into the n semiconductor as well
inclined at 45◦ or by a second-order DFB grating (note as the holes injected into the p semiconductor diffuse to
the doubled grating period in the figure). In a second- the pn junction and can recombine there radiatively and
order grating the light field is reflected back horizontally generate a photon with energy ω (Fig. 11.88). If the
(180◦ ) and coupled out vertically. If the Bragg con- external voltage is increased and the carrier density ex-

Part C 11.3
dition is exactly fulfilled, the emission occurs exactly ceeds a critical value in the range of 1018 cm−3 , the rate
perpendicular to the surface (90◦ ). However, the larger of photon emission becomes higher than the absorption
the deviation in (11.93) in the (>)-direction or (<)- rate, so that an incident wave can be amplified coher-
direction, the larger or smaller the angle, respectively. If ently due to stimulated emission. The condition for this
the grating is interrupted we have a distributed Bragg re- population inversion is that the separation between the
flector (DBR) structure. Typically, a central grating-free quasi-Fermi levels E f c and E f v , which describe the fill-
section is embedded between two DBR sections. In the ing of the conduction and valence bands, is larger than
DFB and DBR structures the horizontally propagating the bandgap E g (Bernard–Durafourg condition):
light field alternatively passes two virtual quasi-layers of
E fc − E fv ≥ ω ≥ Eg . (11.94)
slightly different refractive index. For DBR resonators
with real layers (see Sect. 11.3.4 or the next section) In this case the semiconductor material is transpar-
these operation principles become more evident. ent for the generated wave with the wavelength defined
by the bandgap. The resulting gain values are very high
Second case: VCSELs. They are also based on DBR (in the range of 103 cm−1 ) due to the high carrier den-
structures, which in contrast to the first case consist of sity. Lasing occurs if the additional losses of the optical
real multiple layers having a very high refractive-index resonator providing the feedback are compensated.
difference. The central cavity has no grating and is em-
bedded between two DBR mirrors, thus also forming an Double-Heterostructure Lasers
FP-like structure. However, feedback is distributed over The active region, where population inversion is
the two DBR structures. In most cases the thickness achieved, is very thin in homojunction lasers and the
of a single period (equivalent to a pair of neighbor- threshold current is very high, since only a small portion
ing layers) is chosen to equal half the wavelength of of the injected carriers is utilized for the lasing pro-
light in the medium for the design wavelength. This cor- cess. Lower threshold currents and continuous operation
responds to a first-order grating according to (11.93). at room temperature can be achieved with double-
Since the resonator is oriented perpendicularly and the heterostructure lasers, where the low-bandgap active
emission occurs perpendicular to the main chip surface layer is sandwiched between n- and p-doped cladding
(oriented parallel to the substrate area), this laser is called layers with a higher bandgap epitaxially grown on a sub-
a vertical-cavity surface-emitting laser (VCSEL). The strate (Fig. 11.89). The technical realization of these
two mirrors must have a very high reflectivity to reach structures is possible if the lattice mismatch between the
the laser threshold, since the laser-active layer is rela- different layers of the material system does not exceed
tively thin and has a weak overlap with the light field in a critical value. Double heterostructures [11.1257] have
the resonator. three main advantages with respect to laser operation:
Edge-emitting lasers as well as VCSELs will be
treated in detail in the following sections. On the ba- • The bandgap difference between the layers is dis-
sis of both cases (A and B), it is possible to implement tributed between the valence and conduction bands
lasers with external resonators, as indicated in the last and creates potential barriers for the injected elec-
row of Fig. 11.96. trons and holes. For an appropriate choice of doping
and applied voltage, a nearly rectangular-shaped
11.3.3 Edge-Emitting Laser Diodes potential well can be achieved (Fig. 11.89), which
with Horizontal Resonators efficiently confines the carriers in the low-bandgap
active layer if the potential difference is higher than
As already mentioned, the population inversion between the thermal activation energy kB T . The width of the
the valence and conduction bands, which is necessary active layer dact is defined by the heterostructure ge-
for the coherent amplification of radiation [11.1274], ometry. The carriers injected via the pn junction are
704 Part C Coherent and Incoherent Light Sources

captured in the potential well and confined to a small

Confinement factor Ã
volume, thus decreasing the injection current, which 1
is necessary to achieve inversion.
• There is no reabsorption of the radiation emitted 0.8 n = 3.5
from the active layer in the surrounding layers due
to the difference in bandgap energies. 0.6
• In the material systems used for semiconductor
Part C 11.3

lasers, the low-bandgap active layer has a higher 0.4

refractive index than the surrounding cladding lay-
ers. Therefore, the double heterostructure acts as 0.2
a dielectric planar slab waveguide, confining the ë = 1550 nm
generated optical field to the active region due to 0
the refractive-index difference between the layers. 0 200 400 600 800 1000
Thickness d (nm)
The number of modes supported by this optical
waveguide for a given wavelength depends on the Fig. 11.97 Dependence of the optical confinement factor Γ
thicknesses and the refractive indices of the lay- on the thickness d of an InP/InGaAsP/InP layer structure
ers. By a proper choice of the design parameters,
a single transverse (perpendicular to the pn junc- the waveguide, the confinement factor approaches 1 and
tion) mode can be selected, which concentrates the additional modes are supported.
photon density for stimulated emission in the gain An optical mode with an effective refractive index
region. n eff experiences an effective gain geff in a waveguide
with an active layer, which provides the material gain
Thus, a double heterostructure enables the confinement
gact and has a refractive index n act
of carriers and generated photons in the active layer. For
bulk active layers, the de Broglie wavelength of the car- n act
geff = Γact gact . (11.96)
riers is small compared to the thickness of the active n eff
layer, leading to a high degree of carrier confinement.
The correction factor n act /n eff takes into account the
The wavelength of the photons, however, is comparable
waveguiding effect on the modal gain [11.1275].
to the dimension of the structure, so that only a portion of
the optical intensity is confined to the active region. The
Laser Structures
transversal distribution of the light intensity in the dou-
Using modern epitaxial growth methods it is possible
ble heterostructure is given by the solution of the wave
to realize semiconductor multilayer structures very pre-
equation of a planar slab waveguide supporting TE and
cisely so that stable, transverse single-mode operation
TM modes with an effective index n eff as the respective
can be obtained using dielectric waveguiding [11.1276].
eigenvalue. Figure 11.89c shows the optical intensity of
For most applications, however, lateral (parallel to the
the fundamental TE mode in a double heterostructure as
pn junction) patterning of the laser structure is also re-
a function of the transversal coordinate y, revealing the
quired to obtain lateral carrier and photon confinement,
incomplete confinement of the optical field in the active
which is important to obtain stable and efficient laser
region. The fraction of the mode intensity within the ac-
operation with high spectral purity and good coupling
tive layer is called the optical confinement or the filling
efficiency into a fibre. In addition, lateral confinement of
factor Γact , which is an important design parameter for
the injection current is necessary to avoid leakage cur-
a semiconductor laser:
 dact rents bypassing the active region. The confinement of
|E(y)|2 dy photons, carriers and current has been implemented in
Γact =  0+∞ , (11.95) many ways, reflecting the specific purpose of the de-
−∞ |E(y)| dy
vice. Semiconductor lasers can be classified according
where E(y) is the electric field. If the light is also con- to the mechanism of lateral waveguiding as gain-guided
fined in the lateral direction of the laser, the definition or index-guided, depending on whether it is the lateral
has to be modified accordingly. variation of the optical gain or the refractive index that
The dependence of the optical confinement factor of confines the mode. Index-guided lasers can further be
the guided modes on the thickness d for a layer struc- subclassified as weakly or strongly index-guided, de-
ture is shown in Fig. 11.97. For increasing thickness of pending on the magnitude of the lateral refractive-index
Lasers and Coherent Light Sources 11.3 Semiconductor Lasers 705

Gainguiding Indexguiding
Laserstructure Oxide stripe laser Buried active layer
w w

p-contact Isolator p-contact Isolator

p d p

Part C 11.3
Active layer n < nact
y n n

n-contact n-contact

P– I curve
P (mW) P (mW)

– “Kinks” due to unstable

10 lateral waveguiding 10
Stable, lateral monomode
– Threshold high and not operation with low threshold
5 clearly defined due to strong 5
spontaneous emission
0 0
0 50 100 150 0 50 100 150
I (mA) I (mA)

Intensity (arb, units)) Intensity (arb, units))
1 1
0.8 0.8
0.6 Multimode due to 0.6 Few modes due to
strong spontaneous weak spontaneous
0.4 emission 0.4 emission
0.2 0.2
0 0
1.52 1.525 1.53 1.535 1.54 1.52 1.525 1.53 1.535 1.54
Wavelength (µm) Wavelength (µm)

Intensity (arb, units)) Intensity (arb, units))
1 1
0.8 0.8
0.6 0.6
0.4 0.4
0.2 0.2
0 0
–40 –20 0 20 40 –40 –20 0 20 40
Angle è|| (deg) Angle è|| (deg)

Phase fronts
Curved Planar

w w

x x

z z

Fig. 11.98 Comparison of gain-guided and index-guided laser structures

706 Part C Coherent and Incoherent Light Sources

step. In a gain-guided laser structure (oxide stripe laser, two categories: ridge waveguide lasers and channeled
Fig. 11.98, left) the current is injected via a stripe con- substrate lasers.
tact (width w ≈ 5 µm) in a laterally unpatterned active In ridge-waveguide lasers, a rib waveguide is de-
layer. The optical field is mainly guided by the result- fined by etching a narrow stripe (≈ 3–5 µm) down near
ing variation of the gain. The lateral waveguiding is to the active layer (at a typical distance of 200 nm). In the
weak, so that even small variations of the refractive case of a metal-clad-ridge waveguide (MCRW) laser in
index, e.g., due to temperature changes or carrier in-
Part C 11.3

jection lead to unstable operation. In an index-guided

laser structure (buried laser structure, Fig. 11.98, right) a) Metal-clad-ridge waveguide (MCRW) laser
4 µm
the active layer (w ≈ 2 µm) is laterally embedded into
a material with a lower refractive index (n < n act ), higher Cr-Au electrode
bandgap and higher electrical resistivity to facilitate sta-
p+- GaAs
ble lateral waveguiding, carrier confinement and current
confinement. The typical features of index- and gain-
guided laser structures are summarized in Fig. 11.98. p-AlGaAs
GaAs (active)
The power–current characteristic (P–I curve) of gain-
guided lasers is characterized by a high threshold current n-AlGaAs
(typical 50–100 mA) and kinks originating from the
unstable lateral waveguiding. The optical spectrum is
multimodal due to the enhanced spontaneous emission. n-GaAs substrate
The phase-fronts are curved in the resonator and the far
field shows the characteristic twin lobes caused by the AuGeNi elektrode
laterally inhomogeneous gain distribution. The main ad-
vantage of gain-guided lasers is the simplicity of their b) Ridge waveguide laser
4 µm
fabrication. For very large stripe widths (50–100 µm)
a so-called broad-area laser results, in which the cur- p contact
rent is injected laterally and homogeneously via a large
contact. Since there is no lateral waveguiding in broad-
area lasers, the threshold current is very high (typical
a few A) and the multimode emission cannot be coupled p-InP
InGaAsP (active)
efficiently into a fibre. Due to the high output power,
broad-area lasers are used, e.g., for optical pumping of n-InP
solid-state lasers.
Index-guided lasers show stable, lateral single-mode
emission with a low threshold current (typical 10 mA) n-InP substrate
and a P–I curve without kinks. The spontaneous emis-
sion in each mode is significantly smaller, resulting in n contact
a spectrum with a few dominating modes. The phase-
c) Channeled-substrate planar (CSP) laser
fronts are planar and the far field has a smooth shape,
2 µm
enabling a high coupling efficiency into a single-mode
AuZn electrode p+-Zn diffusion
p-Al0.6Ga0.4As 0.05 µm
Weakly index-guided laser structures. In weakly
p-Al0.15Ga0.85As (aktiv)
index-guided lasers the thickness of the waveguiding n-Al0.6Ga0.4As
layer is varied, thus resulting in a lateral waveguiding 1.5 µm
0.3 µm
structure. Lateral single-mode emission can be ob-
tained by a proper choice of the thickness and width
of this variation. The lateral index step has to exceed n-GaAs substrate
the carrier-induced reduction of the refractive index
AuGe electrode
(∆n ≈ 5 × 10−3 ) so that index-guiding is dominating.
Weakly index-guided laser structures can be divided into Fig. 11.99 Weakly index-guided laser structures
Lasers and Coherent Light Sources 11.3 Semiconductor Lasers 707

the material system GaAlAs (Fig. 11.99a) a CrAu elec- nearly planarized, thus generating a lateral waveguiding
trode is deposited, which gives an electrically conductive structure, since the active layer has a higher refractive
contact on the p+ top layer of the rib and an insulat- index. Current bypass can be reduced by guiding the
ing contact on the p-GaAlAs layer with lower doping injection current using, e.g., localized Zn diffusion.
along the rib. Thus, the current injection is focused in Weakly index-guided lasers are suitable to obtain
the region of the active layer below the rib. This current low threshold currents of typically 20–40 mA and high
confinement can also be realized by additional isolating output powers with lateral single-mode emission. The

Part C 11.3
layers, e.g., SiO2 (Fig. 11.99b). The lateral waveguid- weak waveguiding allows for broader active layers com-
ing is accomplished by the higher refractive index of pared to buried laser structures, which has a positive
the semiconductor material compared to the surround- effect, e.g., on the series resistance. The low current
ing SiO2 and air. The etch depth has to be carefully leakage in ridge waveguide lasers usually results in good
controlled (e.g., by using etch-stop layers) in order to linearity of the P–I curve. The emission is more com-
select one lateral mode and minimize current bypass. plex than in buried lasers, since index- and gain-guiding
The first step in the processing of channeled sub- are important and even small changes of the refractive in-
strate lasers is the etch of a 2–3 µm-wide and 1 µm-deep dex by temperature or current injection can influence the
channel into the substrate (Fig. 11.99c). In the subse- performance. The active layer in weakly index-guided
quent epitaxy (e.g., liquid-phase epitaxy) this channel is lasers is not affected during processing, so that lateral

a) Buried heterostructure (BH) laser b) Etched-mesa buried heterostructure (EMBH)

4 µm 2 µm

AuZn SiO2 p contact

+ p-InGaAsP
p - GaAs
n-InP p-InP
p-AlGaAs GaAs (active)

InGaAsP (active)

n-GaAs-substrate n-InP substrate

AuGe n contact

c) Double-channel planar buried heterostructure d) Mushroom laser

(DCPBH) laser
3 µm 6 µm

AuZn SiO2 SiO2 AuGe/Au

p+-InGaAsP n-InP
s.i.-InP 3µm
p-InP n-InP
p-InP p-InP
p-InP InGaAsP (active) InGaAsP (active)

n-InP substrate
p-InP substrate

AuGe AuZn contact

Fig. 11.100 Buried heterostructure lasers

708 Part C Coherent and Incoherent Light Sources

carrier diffusion in the active layer cannot be avoided, but ical etching process the width of the active region is
on the other hand, the unpatterned active layer is advan- reduced up to 1–2 µm to obtain lateral single-mode op-
tageous for the reliability of the device. Since only one eration. The resulting undercut area is epitaxially refilled
epitaxial growth step is needed, the fabrication of these afterwards, e.g., using vapor phase epitaxy (VPE) with
lasers is significantly easier than buried semiconductor semi-insulating InP [11.1279].
lasers. In addition to this strongly index-guided laser struc-
tures with a planar active layer, which are useful for
Part C 11.3

Strongly index-guided laser structures. Strong index- integration with a DFB grating, there also exist buried
guiding can be accomplished by buried laser structures, laser structures utilizing nonplanar active layers based
where a small stripe of the active layer material with on the regrowth of, e.g., V-grooves or mesas.
a high refractive index is embedded into semiconductor Using strongly index-guided structures, a very sta-
material with lower refractive index and larger bandgap. ble and lateral single-mode laser operation with very low
For this purpose, the active layer has to be patterned threshold currents (< 10 mA) and excellent high-speed
and epitaxially regrown afterwards. Lateral single-mode characteristics can be obtained, since stable optical
operation is possible, if the resulting stripe width of the waveguiding, carrier confinement and current confine-
active layer does not exceed a critical value defined by ment are combined. The fabrication of these devices,
the cut-off for the higher lateral modes [11.1277]. however, is complicated due to the additional epitaxy
Figure 11.100 shows some examples for strongly step.
index-guided laser structures. In the case of a buried-
heterostructure (BH) laser structure in the material Edge-emitting Fabry–Pérot laser diodes
system GaAs/GaAlAs (Fig. 11.100a) the GaAs active In Fabry–Pérot (FP) lasers, the cleaved facets of the
layer is surrounded by AlGaAs, which has a larger semiconductor crystal form the optical resonator, which
bandgap and a lower refractive index. The active layer enables laser operation by providing the optical feedback
is grown in the first epitaxial step and structured into of the stimulated amplified radiation. This resonator se-
1–2 µm-wide stripes. Using liquid-phase epitaxy (LPE), lects the photons generated by stimulated emission with
which planarizes the structure, the regions alongside respect to direction and wavelength. The light wave trav-
the stripe are refilled with alternating n- and p-doped eling perpendicularly to the facets is amplified if the
AlGaAs layers. This reverse-biased diode structure pre- wavelength matches a longitudinal mode of the res-
vents the current from bypassing the active region. In onator [(11.92), Figs. 11.90, 95, 96, 103a]. The lasing
a similar way, a BH structure can be realized in the process starts if the gain experienced during one round-
long-wavelength material system InGaAsP/InP (Etched- trip in the cavity equals the losses caused by absorption,
mesa buried heterostructure laser, Fig. 11.100b). The scattering and the light output through the facets.
reduction of leakage current using alternating n- and
p-doped layers, however, leads to a significant increase Lasing condition. The length L of the resonator is
of the parasitic electrical capacity of the laser, which typically a few hundred micrometers. The intensity re-
degrades the high-frequency response of the device. Al- flection and transmission coefficients of the end facets
ternatively, electrically isolating regions for the current can be estimated using the Fresnel equations, neglect-
confinement can be fabricated using semi-insulating ma- ing the transversal and lateral structure of the waveguide
terial (e.g., Fe-doped InP) or by proton implantation. In with the air (n = 1) assumed to be outside the cavity:
Double-channel substrate planar buried heterostructure
(n eff − 1)2 4n eff
(DCPBH) lasers (Fig. 11.100c) the first epitaxial growth R= , T= , (11.97)
step produces the active InGaAsP-layer and a p-InP cap (n eff + 1)2 (n eff + 1)2
layer on the n-InP substrate. Then, a double-stripe struc- where n eff is the effective refractive index of the wave-
ture embedding the active region is created by etching. guide mode considered.
In the subsequent LPE step the generated channels are In this one-dimensional model plane waves with
refilled with p-InP/n-InP and the epitaxial growth of the electric field amplitude E(z) travel in the longitudi-
laser structure is finished up to the InGaAsP top layer. nal direction (z) of the FP resonator, experiencing the
The processing of the mushroom laser (Fig. 11.100d) modal intensity gain g due to stimulated emission. The
begins with the etching of 6 µm-wide mesa in the layer threshold for laser operation is defined by a round-trip
structure, which cuts through the active layer grown in condition requiring that in a stationary state the optical
the first epitaxy [11.1278]. Using a selective wet chem- wave remains unchanged after one complete round-trip
Lasers and Coherent Light Sources 11.3 Semiconductor Lasers 709

P, N
I (y)
n2 n1 Ë w

dact Ãact

Nthr N

Part C 11.3
Stimulated 0 L
Fig. 11.102 Scheme of a DFB laser structure with an integrated rect-
angular Bragg grating (duty cycle w/Λ) including the corresponding
Spontaneous transversal intensity distribution I (x)
Ithr I
separation ∆ν of adjacent modes is influenced by the dis-
Fig. 11.101 Dependence of the output power (P) and carrier persion of the waveguide, which is taken into account
density (N) on the injected current by the group refractive index n g
in the cavity. This round-trip condition gives the mirror ∆ν = (11.100)
losses of the FP resonator 2Ln g

1 with
g = αm = ln(R1 R2 ) , (11.98)
2L dn eff
n g = n eff + ν . (11.101)
where R1 and R2 denote the intensity reflection coeffi- dν
cients of the end facets. Since the net gain g in the cavity For a typical FP laser diode the group index
is composed of the material gain of the semiconductor of n g ≈ 3.5–5 is higher than the effective index
geff and the waveguide losses αs , the lasing condition n eff ≈ 3–3.5. The separation of the equidistant mode
can be written as frequencies is about 150 GHz for a 300 µm-long cavity,
n act which is small compared to the width of the gain curve of
gthr = Γact gact (Nthr ) = αs + αm (11.99)
n eff
if the contribution of spontaneous emission is neglected a)
and Nthr denotes the carrier density at threshold. The 2
optical losses of the waveguide are caused by optical y
scattering from imperfections in the bulk media or at
z z
interfaces and free-carrier absorption in the active and
cladding layers. b) DFB
The longitudinal distribution of the photon density
s(z) in the active FP resonator is given by the sum of the Stop band
forward and backward traveling photon densities, which
grow exponentially due to the gain g. For a symmetric c) DFB
resonator (R = R1 = R2 ) the total photon density s(z) is
given by a cosh function (Fig. 11.103a) with a minimum Stop band
in the middle of the resonator. For a laser diode with
as-cleaved facets (R = 0.28), the intensity distribution d) VCSEL
is relatively flat, whereas for antireflection-coated facets log intensity
a strongly inhomogeneous photon distribution results.
The round-trip condition also gives the optical fre-
quencies of the longitudinal modes of the FP resonator
according to νq = qc/(2Ln eff ), where q = 1, 2, 3 · · · Fig. 11.103 Schematic structural cross sections (left) and the corre-
and c denotes the vacuum speed of light. The frequency sponding emission spectra (right) for various diode lasers
710 Part C Coherent and Incoherent Light Sources

the semiconductor (≈ 5 THz). Thus, longitudinal multi- number S = sV/Γact via

mode operation can be expected above threshold for an 
FP laser diode. E(t) = S(t) exp[iΦ(t)] , (11.106)
For many applications the degree of single-mode Rsp is the time-averaged rate of spontaneous emission
emission is important; it can be quantified by the side- into the lasing mode; Fs (t), FN (t) and FΦ (t) represent
mode suppression ratio (SMSR): Langevin noise sources taking into account the statistic
nature of the spontaneous emission and the shot-noise
Part C 11.3

SMSR = 10 log10 (P1 /P2 ) , (11.102) character of the carrier recombination and generation.
The Langevin forces leading to fluctuations of carrier
where P1 and P2 ≤ P1 denote the output power of the
density and photon density are correlated and have zero
two strongest modes in the optical spectrum. Typical
mean [11.1280].
FP laser diodes achieve a maximum SMSR of approxi-
The longitudinal excess factor K z accounts for the
mately 20 dB.
enhancement of the spontaneous-emission noise due to
the axial dependence of the complex electric field E(z, t)
Rate equations. The fundamental static and dynamic L
properties of semiconductor laser diodes can be mod- | 0 |E(z, t)|2 dz|2
eled using a set of rate equations [11.1280] describing K z (t) =  L . (11.107)
| 0 E 2 (z, t) dz|2
the interaction of electron–hole pairs and photons in
the active layer. We consider a strongly index-guiding In the case of a transversely single-mode index-guided
double heterostructure supporting a single optical mode FP laser the factor K z is given by [11.1281]
traveling as a plane wave axially in the cavity. The  √ √ √ 2
( R1 + R2 )(1 − R1 R2 )
current I is assumed to be uniformly injected into the K zFP = √ .
active layer with volume V and recombines there, com- R1 R2 ln(1/R1 R2 )
pletely neglecting leakage currents. The carrier density (11.108)
within the active layer is treated as homogeneous in the The first rate equation (11.103) can be formally
transversal and lateral direction, since the correspond- derived from the quantum-mechanical density-matrix
ing inhomogeneities of photon density are small and the formalism. It can be interpreted as a balance of carri-
resulting gradients in carrier density are smoothed out ers that are injected as a current I and contribute to
by diffusion. In FP lasers with a sufficiently high mirror stimulated emission or are lost for the lasing process via
reflectivity, the axial variations of the photon density s the different recombination processes. The second and
and the carrier density N can be neglected and the rate third equations (11.104, 105) can be derived from the
equations can be written as: Maxwell equations with the rotating-wave and slowly
dN I N varying amplitude approximations.
= − − BN 2 − CN 3 For semiconductor lasers with a bulk active layer, the
dt eV τnr
dependence of the gain on the carrier density gact (N) can
n act FN (t)
− vg gact (N, s)s + , (11.103) be approximated as linear [11.1282]
n eff V
ds n act gact (N) = (N − Ntr ) , (11.109)
=vg Γact gact (N, s) − gthr s dN
dt n
 eff  where dg/ dN is the differential gain and Ntr is the
Γact Rsp + Fs (t)
+ , (11.104) transparency carrier density. In quantum well structures
V (Figs. 11.91, 92) this dependence is usually described by
dΦ 1 n act a logarithmic function [11.1283, 1284]
= αH vg Γact gact (N, s) + FΦ (t) , (11.105)
dt 2 n eff
dg N
gact (N) = N ln for gact ≥ 0 . (11.110)
where vg = c/n g is the group velocity of the waveguide, dN Ntr
e the electron charge, gact is the material gain of the The influence of the photon density on the gain is taken
active layer, Γact is the optical confinement factor of into account by introducing a nonlinear gain coefficient
the active layer and 1/τnr , B and C are the parameters ε according to:
describing nonradiative, bimolecular and Auger recom-
bination, respectively. Φ is the phase of the complex gact (N)
gact (N, s) = . (11.111)
electric field E, which is connected with the photon 1 + εs
Lasers and Coherent Light Sources 11.3 Semiconductor Lasers 711

This nonlinear gain compression is caused by spectral small and (11.103) gives a linear increase of the car-
hole burning and carrier heating, which is significant rier density according to N ∝ I/eV . Above threshold
if the time constant of stimulated emission becomes the gain is approximately clamped at g(Nthr ) = gthr and
comparable to the intraband relaxation time. the corresponding threshold current, which is defined
in the limiting case of vanishing spontaneous emission
Refractive index change. In semiconductors the real (Rsp = 0), becomes
part of the refractive index depends on the carrier density  

Part C 11.3
because of various physical mechanisms. With increas- Ithr = eV + BNthr
+ CNthr
. (11.115)
ing injection the band-to-band absorption is reduced due τnr
to band-filling effects. In addition, the absorption in- Using (11.103) the photon number above thresh-
creases due to the reduction of the bandgap (bandgap old can then be written as S = (I − Ithr )/evg gthr . Since
renormalization resulting from many-body effects) and the carrier density is clamped at threshold, all injected
absorption also increases due to the increasing absorp- carriers in excess of the threshold current contribute
tion of free carriers. The resulting total change of the real to stimulated emission and the number of photons in-
part of the refractive index, which is related to the gain creases proportionally to (I − Ithr ). The total output
spectrum via the Kramers–Kronig relation, depends on power P = vg ωαm S emitted from both facets becomes
the wavelength relative to the gain maximum. In the case
ω αm
of 1.5 µm InGaAsP the refractive index decreases with P= ηi (I − Ithr ) , (11.116)
injection. The dependence of the refractive index on the e gthr
carrier density is theoretically described by the effective where we assume that only a fraction ηi of the ex-
line width enhancement or Henry factor α ternal drive current reaches the active region and the
∂n eff remaining fraction (1 − ηi ) is lost via leakage cur-
α= , (11.112) rent or nonradiative recombination. Thus, the P–I
curve of a semiconductor laser diode is a straight line
where the complex effective refractive index is defined (Fig. 11.101) above threshold with a slope defined by
by n eff − iγeff . The change of the effective index with the external quantum efficiency ηext :
carrier density can be written as
dP e αm
n act n act αλ ∂gact (N) ηext = = ηi , (11.117)
δn eff ∼
= Γact δn act = −Γact δN . dI ω gthr
n eff n eff 4π ∂N
which can be interpreted as the ratio of the number
of emitted photons to the number of injected elec-
The line width enhancement factor is important for trons per time. The sharpness of the transition from
the treatment of line width and frequency chirp un- the spontaneous emission below threshold to the stimu-
der modulation [11.1281]. Typically it ranges from 3 lated emission above threshold depends on the amount
to 5, decreasing from the long-wavelength to the short- of spontaneous emission into the lasing mode. Leak-
wavelength side of the gain curve [11.1282]. age currents, thermal effects and spectral hole-burning
neglected so far lead to bending of the P–I curve.
Steady-state characteristics. The single-mode rate
equations can be used to analyze the steady-state behav- Characteristic temperature. The threshold current of
ior of a semiconductor laser. Setting the time derivative a semiconductor laser depends on the temperature T ,
to zero in (11.104), we obtain an implicit expression for which can be described phenomenologically by
the photon number S in the case of continuous-wave
(CW) operation: Ithr (T ) = I0 exp , (11.118)
S= . (11.114) where T0 is the characteristic temperature, which typi-
vg [gthr − Γact gact (N, s)]
cally ranges between 40 K and 90 K for semiconductor
The number of photons increases as the gain value lasers emitting around 1550 nm.
asymptotically approaches the losses gthr. The small gain
difference is compensated by spontaneous emission, Single-Mode Laser Structures
which provides the noise input amplified by stimu- Transmitters used, e.g., in optical-fibre communication
lated emission. Below threshold the photon density is systems should emit light predominantly in a single
712 Part C Coherent and Incoherent Light Sources

longitudinal mode since the presence of side modes lim- Bragg grating. The method most frequently used to
its the transmission capacity due to pulse broadening achieve single-mode emission is to incorporate a Bragg
caused by the chromatic dispersion of the fibre. Semi- grating, which creates a periodic variation of the
conductor lasers with an FP resonator usually exhibit complex refractive index and distributes the feedback
multimode operation since the gain spectrum is wider throughout the cavity. Dynamic single-mode operation
than the longitudinal mode spacing and the broadening is achieved if the threshold gain for the oscillating
of the gain profile, which due to spectral hole burning is mode is significantly smaller than the threshold gain
Part C 11.3

not perfectly homogeneous, offers several modes with for the other modes. Devices employing Bragg grat-
sufficient gain to oscillate. The techniques to achieve ings can be classified roughly into three categories:
reliable longitudinal mode control even under high- distributed Bragg reflector (DBR), distributed feedback
bit-rate modulation can be categorized into two main (DFB) (Figs. 11.96, 102, 103, section on Fabry–Pérot
groups: structures in Sect. 11.3.2, and Sect. 11.3.6) and gain-
coupled (GC) lasers.
Short lasers. The discrimination against side modes in In DBR lasers the Bragg grating is etched into pas-
FP resonators can be enhanced by reducing the cavity sive regions near the cavity ends. The index grating (the
length L. If the mode spacing ∆ν ∝ L −1 becomes com- variation of the real part of the refractive index) acts as
parable to the width of the gain curve, only one mode an effective mirror with wavelength-dependent reflec-
will oscillate near the gain peak. To obtain stable single- tivity and surrounds the central part of the cavity which
mode operation, however, the lasers must be extremely is active and remains uncorrugated. The longitudinal
short. This requires a very good reflectivity of the end mode with a wavelength located near the reflectivity
facets to overcome the high mirror losses αm ∝ L −1 , maximum of the grating is selected. Since a DBR laser
leading to high threshold current densities. The prob- is formed by replacing the mirrors by passive gratings,
lems of fabricating very short semiconductor devices the properties can be described by an effective mirror
can be solved using a vertical-cavity surface-emitting model. The transition between the active section and
laser (VCSEL) structure (Fig. 11.96). the passive gratings usually complicates the technolog-
ical realization of in-plane DBR lasers. An important
Frequency-selective feedback. The second method advantage of DBR lasers is that the wavelength can be
to obtain single-mode operation is to incorporate changed if the grating regions are equipped with sep-
a frequency-selective element in the resonator struc- arate electrodes that can tune the Bragg frequency via
ture. This can be realized by using coupled cavities, the carrier-induced refractive index change. Thus, DBR
an external grating or a Bragg grating: gratings are often used in tunable lasers.
In DFB lasers the index grating covers the entire
Coupled cavities. If one or more additional mirrors are resonator length. At the wavelength corresponding to
introduced in the FP resonator, the boundary conditions the corrugation period of the grating, the forward- and
added due to the reflections at each interface severely backward-traveling waves created by the Bragg scat-
limit the number of longitudinal modes. To achieve tering are confined in the central part of the cavity so
single-mode operation, however, it is often necessary to that the mirror losses become a function of the wave-
tune the resonator by changing the drive current or the length. The longitudinal mode with the lowest mirror
temperature. Usually the single-mode regime is small so losses corresponding to the most effective concentration
that such structures can only be modulated over a limited of photons in the resonator is selected.
current range without mode jumps. In addition, the re- In gain-coupled devices a periodic variation of gain
producible fabrication of nearly identical devices turns or loss is used to favor a longitudinal mode of the
out to be difficult since the spectral properties strongly FP resonator. In the ideal case, there is no Bragg
depend on the exact lengths of the sections. scattering at the gain grating, and the longitudinal
photon distribution as well as the mirror losses are un-
External grating. Frequency selection can also be real- changed compared to the FP cavity. The overlap with
ized by an external grating outside the resonator. The the loss or gain grating, however, varies between the
mechanical stability of such lasers, however, is a crit- different longitudinal modes of the FP resonator. The
ical point since the grating is not integrated on the mode experiencing the largest overlap with the gain
wafer. Consequently, lasers with external gratings are grating (or minimum overlap with a loss grating) is
expensive devices (Fig. 11.110a). selected.
Lasers and Coherent Light Sources 11.3 Semiconductor Lasers 713

DFB lasers. The spectral properties of DFB losses. In addition, the coupling coefficient of second-
lasers [11.1285] are essentially determined by the inte- order gratings depends more sensitively on the exact
grated Bragg grating. The waveguding in such periodic shape of the grating so that it becomes more difficult to
structures can be analyzed by the coupled mode the- control. That is why first-order gratings predominate al-
ory [11.1286], which yields approximate analytical though the corrugation periods are smaller (Λ ∼= 240 nm
solutions describing the light propagation in waveguides for λ = 1.55 µm). Due to the scattering perpendicular
with a periodic variation of the complex refractive index to the optical axis (Fig. 11.96), second-order gratings

Part C 11.3
by counter-propagating modes exchanging energy by can be utilized for the vertical emission of light from
scattering. The strength of the interaction and the amount edge-emitting laser diodes [11.1287, 1288].
of feedback in the grating structure are determined by
the complex coupling coefficient Basic properties of index-coupled DFB lasers. The
spectrum of an index-coupled DFB laser mainly con-
κ = π∆n/λ0 + i∆g/4 , (11.119)
sists of two degenerate lasing modes at the edges of
which is proportional to the variation of the refractive the stop-band (Fig. 11.103b). This mode degeneracy in
index step ∆n, the gain variation ∆g and the number of index-coupled DFB laser structures is usually removed
corrugations per length in the grating. The Bragg wave- by incorporating a λ/4 phase shift in the grating. This
length λB is given by the effective index, the corrugation can technologically be implemented by inserting an ad-
period Λ and the order m DFB of the grating according to ditional section of length λ0 /(4n eff ) = Λ/2 in the middle
(11.93). For an axially homogeneous first-order grating of the grating. The introduction of the λ/4 phase shift
(m DFB = 1) with length L and a perfect antireflection selects the Bragg mode in the middle of the stop-band,
coating on the facets (R1 = R2 = 0) the theory reveals revealing the lowest mirror losses so that single-mode
the following solutions operation with an SMSR of > 40 dB can be obtained
(Fig. 11.103c).
• In the case of pure index coupling (∆n eff =
The axial distribution of the light intensity in the cav-
0, ∆g = 0) the transmission spectrum turns out
ity is connected to the mirror losses αm via the round-trip
to be symmetric with respect to the Bragg wave-
condition. Thus, a decrease of the mirror losses for the
length λB = 2n eff Λ where oscillation is forbidden.
longitudinal modes in a DFB grating is equivalent to in-
For a small coupling coefficient, the mode spacing
creasing longitudinal optical confinement, which means
approximately takes the value of an FP resonator
that the photons are concentrated inside the cavity and
∆λ = λ2 /2n eff L but, in contrast to an FP cavity, the
only a small fraction of the light intensity leaves the res-
threshold gain of the modes is wavelength dependent
onator through the end facets. The typical longitudinal
and increases with growing distance from the Bragg
photon distribution for a DFB laser with and without
wavelength. A strong coupling produces a trans-
a λ/4 phase shift is shown in Fig. 11.103, revealing the
mission stop-band with width ∆λ ∼ = κλ2B /(πn eff )
pronounced maximum in the middle of the resonator
centered at the Bragg wavelength, in which trans-
even for moderate coupling coefficients. This strong in-
mission is strongly damped. The two modes with
homogeneity of the photon density distribution in DFB
the lowest threshold gain g ∼ = 2π 2 /(κ 2 L 3 ) are lo-
lasers leads to an inhomogeneous carrier density dis-
cated at the edges of the stop-band symmetrical to
tribution above threshold due to the recombination by
the Bragg wavelength.
stimulated emission. With increasing injection the car-
• In the case of pure gain coupling (∆g = 0, ∆n eff =
rier density is depleted in places with a high photon
0) the mode degeneracy is removed, which means
density. This phenomenon is called longitudinal spatial
that the mode with the lowest threshold gain os-
hole burning (LSHB) and has several important conse-
cillates at the Bragg wavelength symmetrically
quences for the static and dynamic behavior of DFB
surrounded by the other modes with higher threshold
lasers above threshold. First, the mode discrimination is
gain values. The mode spacing is ∆λ = λ2 /2n eff L
influenced since a variation of the carrier density distri-
and no stop-band occurs since there is no backscat-
bution changes the round-trip gain of the various modes
tering at index steps in the grating. The mode
having different photon density distributions. Thus, the
selection is due to the different overlap of the stand-
side-mode suppression can degrade with increasing out-
ing waves in the FP resonator with the gain grating.
put power due to LSHB. Second, the mode wavelengths
In second-order gratings (m DFB = 2) additional scatter- change, even above threshold, since the inhomogeneity
ing occurs in the transversal direction, leading to higher of the carrier density caused by LSHB leads to an inho-
714 Part C Coherent and Incoherent Light Sources

mogeneous axial distribution of the effective refractive compensated for if the injected current density is
index. This effect is utilized in several types of tunable higher in the central section near the peak of the
DFB lasers. photon density, thus reducing the gain of the side-
Various DFB lasers with a more complex grating modes suffering from the lower current in the outer
structure have been developed in order to obtain a high section [11.1295].
yield of single-mode devices and a flat axial photon
The phase relation between the grating and the end
distribution with reduced LSHB. Some examples are:
facets is difficult to control during the cleaving pro-
Part C 11.3

cess of DFB lasers, since the corrugation period for

• 2 × λ/8 phase shifts. The distance between the phase
a first-order grating (λ = 1.55 µm) is typically 240 nm.
shifts, however, must be optimized to achieve a high
Experimental and theoretical investigations show that
yield [11.1289].
all static and dynamic optical properties of as-cleaved
• Corrugation pitch modulation (CPM). The DFB
DFB lasers are strongly influenced by this phase rela-
grating is divided into three sections. The cor-
tion between the grating and facet. The mirror losses
rugation period in the central section is slightly
of the various longitudinal modes, the mode discrimi-
higher than in the outer sections so that the phase
nation, the intensity distribution, the optical spectra and
shift is quasi-continuously distributed along the cav-
the dynamic and noise characteristics vary considerably
ity [11.1290].
as a function of the end facet phases [11.1296]. Since
• Axial variation of duty cycle by using, e.g., a holo-
these end facet phases are distributed randomly after the
graphic double-exposure technique [11.1291].
cleaving process, the yield of good DFB devices is lim-
• Axial variation of coupling coefficient by vari-
ited. The problem of the uncertain end facet phases can
ation of the etch depth [11.1292] or sampled
be reduced by appropriate antireflection coatings.
gratings [11.1293].
• Bent waveguides superimposed on homogeneous
Gain-coupled lasers. In gain-coupled laser structures,
grating fields can be used to obtain quasi-
a longitudinal mode of the FP resonator is selected by
continuously and arbitrarily chirped gratings with
implementing an axial gain or loss grating. In contrast
high spatial resolution [11.1294].
to index-coupled DFB lasers, there is almost no reflec-
• Axially inhomogeneous injection using a three-
tion of the light wave in a gain grating. Therefore, the
electrode structure. Spatial hole burning can be
longitudinal intensity distribution and the spectral posi-
tions of the various modes are equal to those of an FP
a) Grating layer: Eg > Eg, act
resonator. The mode selection is caused by the different
Än ¹ 0 Ë overlap of the longitudinal modes with the gain grating.
The mode, whose longitudinal field distribution exhibits
the largest overlap with the gain grating or the smallest
overlap with the loss grating, is selected.
dact Gain coupling can be realized in different ways:
Active layer: Eg, act • The grating structure can be etched directly into the
b) Ë active layer and regrown afterwards with a semi-
conductor material [11.1297] that is transparent to
the laser emission (Fig. 11.104b). The resulting gain
Grating in active layer coupling in this grating structure is accompanied by
a strong index coupling due to the high refractive-
c) Grating layer: Eg < Eg, act index difference between the active layer and the re-
grown material. With respect to the phase difference
between the index and gain grating one distinguishes
between in-phase and anti-phase gratings.
• A current blocking pnp layer structure above the
dact active layer is corrugated and regrown, so that a pe-
Active layer: Eg, act
riodic variation of the current density injected into
Fig. 11.104a–c Various types of Bragg gratings. (a) Index the active layer is achieved [11.1298]. The parasitic
coupling; (b) gain coupling; (c) loss coupling index coupling can be kept very small in this type of
Lasers and Coherent Light Sources 11.3 Semiconductor Lasers 715

gain grating. Due to the Kramers–Kronig relations, the receiver. The photodetector retranslates the light
however, the gain grating is inevitably accompanied pulses back to the electronic bit sequence. Seen in terms
by an index grating. of a two-language dictionary, the laser translates ultra-
fast from electronics into optics and the photodetector
Loss coupling is obtained if the grating is etched into ultrafast from optics into electronics.
an additional layer that is separated from the active For this purpose, the electrons injected through
layer and is absorbing for the emission (Fig. 11.104c). the n contact in the semiconductor laser must arrive

Part C 11.3
This grating acts as a saturable periodic absorber for the as fast as possible at the most deeply bound energy
laser emission from the active layer [11.1299]. In con- states of the conduction-band QWs and the holes in-
trast to index coupling (Fig. 11.104a) the bandgap E g jected through the p contact as fast as possible into the
of the grating is smaller than the bandgap of the ac- ground states of the valence-band QWs (Fig. 11.105).
tive layer E g,act . Usually, the absorbing grating layer Several retarding physical transport and relaxation pro-
has a different refractive index than the material used cesses are involved, whose combined time delay effect
for the regrowth, so that considerable index coupling can however be minimized [11.1301, 1302]. Owing to
occurs. Alternatively, the loss grating can be integrated the very high doping in the long conduction paths,
into a metallization at the surface of the device, so that which start at the contacts, very short dielectric re-
no epitaxial regrowth is required [11.1300].
There are significant differences between the charac-
teristics of gain- and loss-coupled semiconductor lasers Laser emission
compared to index-coupled DFB lasers:
• In contrast to index-coupled devices, there is almost Blow-up
no reflection of the light wave in an ideal gain grat- p -doped
Injection bulk layer
ing. Thus, the interference of the reflected wave
inside the grating and at the facets is avoided, so
that the influence of the end facet phases is strongly
reduced compared with index-coupled DFB lasers. Contact
Therefore, a high single-mode yield can be obtained
without the necessity to use an antireflection coating
of the end facets. 1 0 0 1 0 1 1 0 ...
• The longitudinal photon distribution is, in the case Time t
of a small parasitic index coupling, similar to that of
an FP resonator. Thus, the strongly inhomogeneous Contact
photon distribution in DFB lasers and the result-
ing problem of longitudinal spatial hole burning is n-doped
bulk layer
reduced in gain-coupled devices.
Basics of Lasers
with High Modulation Bandwidth Bit pattern
For the highest-bit-rate fibre-optic data communication Light
(1.26–1.68 µm), the ultrafast conversion of the data 1 intensity
from the electronic bit sequence into the appropriate op- 0
tical bit pattern takes place by means of semiconductor 0
lasers. This is done either with a CW laser combined with 1
a subsequent ultrafast optical modulator or via direct t ..
modulation of the laser (intensity or frequency modula-
tion). As the simplest example the intensity modulation Fig. 11.105 Schematic representation of the direct modula-
of the laser is described. The bit pattern available as a se- tion of a semiconductor laser, translation of an electronic
quence of ultrashort current pulses is translated by the bit pattern (left) via a corresponding temporal carrier dis-
laser into the appropriate sequence of ultrashort light tribution in the QWs (center) into an optical bit pattern
pulses, which then propagate e.g. via a fibre towards (bottom)
716 Part C Coherent and Incoherent Light Sources

In order to reduce optical losses through reabsorp-

tion, the confinement layers should be undoped or
Electrons (1) (2) (1) only slightly doped. Retarding effects arise as a con-
in the CB (5) (2) sequence of the charge-carrier transport (number 1 in
EC Fig. 11.106). Using the analogy of the balls and pipe
n-sided p-sided above, a ball in an empty pipe (undoped) must go
confinement (3) (4) confinement through the entire length of pipe (the length of a con-
layer (4) (3) layer
Part C 11.3

finement layer) before finally exiting from the other

end. Further retarding effects arise from the charge car-
(5) Holes rier capture (2), relaxation (3) in the respective QW
E (2) (1) in the VB
ground states, by the reconciliation of charge carrier
inhomogeneities between the individual pots, through
tunneling (4) and thermal reemission (5). Since the mo-
Fig. 11.106 Schematic representation of the charge carrier dynamics bility of the electrons is substantially higher than that
close of the active region (here seven QWs) in the band structure in of the holes, in asymmetrical laser structures [11.1302]
space for an asymmetric laser structure [11.1302] (enlargement of the p-side confinement layers are reduced in thickness
Fig. 11.105 in the area indicated by the ellipse) in favor of the n side. This favors the transfer of the
less-mobile holes. In addition, this asymmetric laser
laxation times arise there. This can be visualized by structure design takes into account the different cap-
means of a pipe completely filled with ping pong balls ture probabilities: the capture of holes into the QWs
(high doping throughout the length of the conduction is much more efficient than that of electrons. Thus,
path). A ball injected at one end of the pipe, causes an- a smaller p-sided confinement layer (reservoir of uncap-
other to be ejected from the other end of the pipe. In tured electrons giving rise to bit interfering) is beneficial.
this manner, a current pulse is transferred to the other In today’s fastest laser diodes (largest modulation band-
end of the pipe almost without delay in heavily doped width) −3 dB modulation frequencies of up to 40 GHz
semiconductors. can be obtained.

a) d)
WG 1
WG 2

b) e)