A number of up-to-date applications, including advanced optical radars with high single-shot resolution, precise 3 D imaging, laser tomography, time imaging spectroscopy, etc., require low-cost, compact, reliable sources enabling the generation of high-power (1-100 W) single optical pulses in the picosecond range. The well-known technique of using the gain-switching operation mode of laser diodes to generate single picosecond pulses in the mW range fails to generate high-power single picosecond pulses because of a lack of high-current switches operating in the picosecond range. We
report here on the achieving of optical pulses of 45W / 70ps, or alternatively 5W / 40ps, with gain-switched commercial quantum well (QW) laser diodes having emitting areas of 250 × 200 μm and 75 × 2 μm, respectively. This was made possible by the use of a novel high-current avalanche switch based on a GaAs bipolar junction transistor (BJT) structure with a switching time (<200ps) comparable to the lasing delay. (The extremely fast transient in this switch is caused by the generation and spread of a comb of powerfully avalanching Gunn domains of ultra-high amplitude in the transistor structure.) A simulation code developed earlier but modified and carefully verified here allowed detailed comparison of the experimental and simulated laser responses and the transient spectrum.