Various solid state lasers such as Cr:LISAF, Yb:YAG, Nd:Vanadate, Ti:sapphire and Nd:YAG have in common a long lifetime of the laser level, which results in a tendency to Q-switching rather than pure mode-locking. These lasers are being used in a linear or ring cavity for intracavity sensing applications (displacements, rotation, electric and magnetic fields), and for applications in spectroscopy. The requirements for these applications are that the pulses be centered at a specific wavelength, and be of a specific pulse duration. Multiple Quantum Wells (MQW) typically used for ultrashort pulse generation have often a high defect concentration which causes losses incompatible with the large number of intracavity elements required by the applications. We have established for all these lasers a composition curve for the MQW, that enables one to tune to a specific wavelength. These saturable absorbers have excellent optical quality both in reflection and transmission.
The approach to prevent Q-switching has generally been to use very low loss modulation (single quantum wells). With a large number of intracavity elements, a larger loss modulation is desirable, hence the use of multiple QW (4 to 100). We have successfully demonstrated stable continuous model-locked operation by using passive energy limiters in the cavity. Two-photon generated carriers induce lensing in the cavity, resulting in power dependent losses through an aperture in the cavity. We show that the attenuation is proportional to the square of pulse intensity, resulting in a steep energy limiter. We demonstrate theoretically and experimentally that the presence of two intracavity pulses required for sensor applications can be satisfied with multiple quantum wells appropriately positioned in the cavity. Examples of applications include rotation sensors (ring cavity) or acceleration sensors (linear cavity), magnetic filed sensor, displacement sensors.