We present an ultrafast fiber laser system at a central wavelength of 1750 nm for imaging applications, in particular 3-photon microscopy. It generates an output pulse train with an adjustable repetition rate ranging from 1 MHz to 21 MHz. After temporal compression the pulse duration is 220 fs and the maximum achieved pulse energy is 20 nJ.
The laser system consists of a polarization maintaining (PM) Erbium-doped fiber oscillator which emits a stable output pulse train at a fixed repetition rate of 42 MHz. The oscillator generates soliton pulses centered at a wavelength of 1560 nm and a spectral width of 7 nm. Mode-locking is initiated and stabilized by a semiconductor saturable absorber mirror. The output pulses are picked in a PM fiber coupled acousto-optic modulator to an adjustable repetition rate of 1 – 21 MHz. A consecutive Erbium-doped PM fiber amplifier (EDFA) boosts the energy of the soliton pulses from pJ to nJ level. The directly emitted pulses have a duration of 2 ps which can be compressed to a pulse duration of 115 fs by using a passive standard fiber. The uncompressed pulses are soliton-self-frequency shifted by Raman scattering to wavelengths longer than 1700 nm in 7 m of passive PM1550 fiber at a pulse energy of 1.1 nJ. The central wavelength can be adjusted by the pump power of the EDFA. To boost the pulse energy of the wavelength shifted pulses, the Raman stage is followed by a single-clad Thulium-doped fiber (TDF) amplifier. It consists of a 1560/1750 nm wavelength division multiplexer (WDM) and 0.9 m of TDF. To diminish nonlinear effects during amplification, the pulses are stretched with 25 m of normal dispersion fiber (NDF) inserted between the WDM and the TDF. Although on the very short wavelength amplification band, the pulses are amplified up to more than 40 nJ of pulse energy at an injected pump power of 4.1 W. After the fiber amplifier, the pulses are coupled out and propagate through a spectral filter, a triplet of l/4, l/2, and l/4 waveplates, an isolator, and a grating compressor. As the WDM, NDF, and TDF are not PM, the polarization state has to be readjusted to linear with the waveplates before entering the isolator. The added group delay dispersion of 2.17 ps2 by the NDF is compensated in a free space standard grating compressor built of two 600 lines/mm gratings. The transmission of the grating compressor is 60 %. To achieve optimum compression to a pulse duration of 220 fs at a pulse energy of 20 nJ, the compressor in combination with spectral filtering around 1750 nm has to be carefully adjusted. The maximum output pulse energy of 20 nJ is constant ranging from 1 MHz to 7 MHz, but is reduced at higher repetition rates down to 8.7 nJ. The output pulse duration is nearly constant at 220 fs for all repetition rates. Further amplification of the pulses is currently under investigation. This system will be used in future for the application of 3-photon microscopy.
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