A significant advancement in the Ce:Nd:YAG solar laser performance using a side-pumping configuration is reported. A solar laser head was composed of a double-stage semispherical lens and a trapezoidal-shaped pumping cavity, which coupled and redistributed the concentrated solar radiation from the focal zone of a parabolic mirror into a laser rod. The laser output performance of a 4.0-mm diameter, 35-mm length Ce:Nd:YAG laser rod was tested and compared with that from a Nd:YAG rod with the same dimensions. At an incoming solar power of 600 W, the Ce:Nd:YAG solar laser achieved 23.6-W / m2 collection efficiency, 4.4% slope efficiency, and 2.8% solar-to-laser power conversion efficiency, which are 1.57, 1.47, and 1.56 times, respectively, higher than the ones obtained with the Nd:YAG rod. The Ce:Nd:YAG side-pumped solar laser has also 1.39 and 1.15 times more collection efficiency and solar-to-laser power conversion efficiency, respectively, than the previous record by Nd:YAG side-pumped solar laser. We demonstrate the great potential of the Ce:Nd:YAG ceramic rod as a gain medium for side-pumped solar lasers.
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