7 October 2014 Temperature-stable lithium niobate electro-optic Q-switch for improved cold performance
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Abstract
Lithium niobate (LN) is commonly used as an electro optic (EO) Q-switch material in infrared targeting lasers because of its relatively low voltage requirements and low cost compared to other crystals. A common challenge is maintaining good performance at the sub-freezing temperatures often experienced during flight. Dropping to low temperature causes a pyro-electric charge buildup on the optical faces that leads to birefringence non-uniformity and depolarization resulting in poor hold-off and premature lasing. The most common solution has been to use radioactive americium to ionize the air around the crystal and bleed off the charge, but the radioactive material requires handling and disposal procedures that can be problematic. We have developed a superior solution that is now being implemented by multiple defense system suppliers. By applying a low level thermo-chemical reduction to the LN crystal optical faces we induce a small conductivity that allows pyro-charges to dissipate. As the material gets more heavily treated, the capacity to dissipate charges improves, but the corresponding optical absorption also increases, causing insertion loss. Even though typical high gain targeting laser systems can tolerate a few percent of added loss, the thermo-chemical processing needs to be carefully optimized. We describe the results of our process optimization to minimize the insertion loss while still giving effective charge dissipation. Treatment is performed at temperatures below 500°C and a conductivity layer less than 0.5mm in depth is created that is uniform across the optical aperture. Because the conductivity is thermally activated, the charge dissipation is less effective at low temperature, and characterization needs to be performed at cold temperatures. The trade-off between optical insertion loss and potential depolarization due to low temperature operation is discussed and experimental results on the temperature dependence of the dissipation time and the optical loss are reported.
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Dieter H. Jundt, "Temperature-stable lithium niobate electro-optic Q-switch for improved cold performance", Proc. SPIE 9251, Technologies for Optical Countermeasures XI; and High-Power Lasers 2014: Technology and Systems, 92510F (7 October 2014); doi: 10.1117/12.2066667; https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2066667
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