Stabilizing Lead-Salt Diode Lasers: Understanding and Controlling Chaotic Frequency Emission

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Science  29 Nov 1996:
Vol. 274, Issue 5292, pp. 1498-1501
DOI: 10.1126/science.274.5292.1498


Lead-salt tunable diode lasers (TDLs) are the only devices currently available that can generate tunable monochromatic radiation at arbitrary wavelengths between 3 and 30 micrometers and are particularly useful for high-resolution spectroscopy over a wide range of spectral regimes. Detailed observations of TDLs show that the observed instrumental linewidth is actually a temporal average of many narrow (less than 0.5 megahertz) emission “modes.” The time scale characteristic of these “modes,” which appear to be of relatively constant intensity, is of the order of a microsecond. The laser's behavior is highly suggestive of a chaotic process, that is, seemingly random excursions of a dynamic variable (frequency) within a bounded range. This report shows experimentally that TDL emissions are indeed chaotic. Furthermore, in a simple and robust fashion, this chaotic behavior has been successfully controlled with the use of recent techniques that take advantage of chaos to produce a narrow band laser output.