Step-taper active-region (STA) quantum cascade lasers (QCLs) allow for both carrier-leakage suppression and ultrafast, miniband-like carrier extraction. In turn, that has led to very high internal-efficiency <i>n</i><sub>i</sub> values: ~ 77 % and 80-86 % from ~ 5.0 μm- and 8-9 μm-emitting QCLs, respectively. Based on extracted parameters that characterize the interfaceroughness (IFR) scattering, a study has been performed of the effects of elastic scattering, both IFR and alloy-disorder (AD) scattering, on 5.0 μm-emitting STA-QCLs. We find that the laser-transition efficiency <i>n</i><sub>tr</sub> is enhanced by ~15 % (i.e., from 83 % to ~ 95 %) due to the much stronger effect of elastic scattering on the lower-laser-level lifetime than on the effective upper-laser-level lifetime. In turn, the injection efficiency: <i>n</i><sub>inj</sub> = <i>n</i><sub>i</sub> /<i>n</i><sub>tr</sub> , reaches ~ 81 %; that is, the highest injection-efficiency value obtained to date from QCLs. Furthermore, we find that the projected upper limit for the pulsed wall-plug efficiency can reach values as high as 44.4 % for 4.6 μm-emitting devices; thus, raising the possibility of CW operation of 4.5-5.0 μm-emitting QCLs with wallplug-efficiency values as high as 40 %.
Implementation of the step-taper active-region (STA) design to 8-9 μm-emitting quantum cascade lasers (QCLs) has resulted in both high T<sub>0</sub> and T<sub>1</sub> values: 220 K and 665 K, and short lower-level lifetimes: 0.12 ps. In turn, the internal differential efficiency η<sub>id</sub>, which is the product of the injection efficiency and the differential laser-transition efficiency, reaches values as high as 86 % for both 8.4 μm- and 8.8 μm-emitting QCLs. Such η<sub>id</sub> values are 30-50% higher than those obtained from conventional QCLs emitting in the 7-11 μm wavelength range. Achieving both carrier-leakage suppression and miniband-like carrier extraction in mid-infrared (IR) QCLs leads to η<sub>id</sub> values close to the fundamental limit of ~ 90 %. In turn, the currently employed fundamental wallplug-efficiency limits over the mid-IR wavelength range have to be increased by ~ 34 % (e.g., the wallplug-efficiency limit at λ= 4.6 μm increases from 29 % to 39 %). Preliminary results from STA-type 4.8-5.0 μm-emitting QCLs include 1.5 W CW operation, and 77 % internal differential efficiency; that is, 30-50% higher than the η<sub>id</sub> values obtained from conventional 4.0-6.5μm-emitting QCLs.