Diode Laser—Pumped Solid-State Lasers

Science  12 Feb 1988:
Vol. 239, Issue 4841, pp. 742-747
DOI: 10.1126/science.239.4841.742


Diode laser—pumped solid-state lasers are efficient, compact, all solid-state sources of coherent optical radiation. Major advances in solid-state laser technology have historically been preceded by advances in pumping technology. The helical flash lamps used to pump early ruby lasers were superseded by the linear flash lamp and arc lamp now used to pump neodymium-doped yttrium-aluminum-garnet lasers. The latest advance in pumping technology is the diode laser. Diode laser—pumped neodymium lasers have operated at greater than 10 percent electrical to optical efficiency in a single spatial mode and with linewidths of less than 10 kilohertz. The high spectral power brightness of these lasers has allowed frequency extension by harmonic generation in nonlinear crystals, which has led to green and blue sources of coherent radiation. Diode laser pumping has also been used with ions other than neodymium to produce wavelengths from 946 to 2010 nanometers. In addition, Q-switched operation with kilowatt peak powers and mode-locked operation with 10-picosecond pulse widths have been demonstrated. Progress in diode lasers and diode laser arrays promises all solid-state lasers in which the flash lamp is replaced by diode lasers for average power levels in excess of tens of watts and at a price that is competitive with flash lamp—pumped laser systems. Power levels exceeding 1 kilowatt appear possible within the next 5 years. Potential applications of diode laser—pumped solid-state lasers include coherent radar, global sensing from satellites, medical uses, micromachining, and miniature visible sources for digital optical storage.