High-Power Fiber Lasers

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Science  20 May 2011:
Vol. 332, Issue 6032, pp. 921-922
DOI: 10.1126/science.1194863

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Lasers are used in a wide range of applications that benefit from the pinsharp (spatially coherent) beam and immense pulse peak power they can provide. In many cases, notably manufacturing, high average power is essential for cutting, welding, and drilling. The low-power optical fiber amplifier (1), acclaimed as the mainstay of the fiber-based Internet, can be massively scaled to emerge as an industrial laser frontrunner, reaching an output power of >1 kW (2) and, more recently, an astounding 10 kW (3). These results were obtained with (nearly) diffraction-limited beam quality, which determines the ability to focus to a tight spot. Together with the power and wavelength, it determines the spatial brightness, or radiance. The brightness is exceptionally high for these fiber lasers, and this, rather than the power itself, determines the power density achievable on a target.