Active control of the spectral and temporal output characteristics of solid-state lasers through use of MEMS scanning micromirrors is presented. A side-pumped Nd:YAG laser with two intracavity scanning micromirrors, enabling Q-switching operation with controllable pulse duration and pulse-on-demand capabilities, is investigated. Changing the actuation signal of one micromirror allows a variation of the pulse duration between 370 ns and 1.06 μs at a pulse repetition frequency of 21.37 kHz and average output power of 50 mW. Pulse-on-demand lasing is enabled through actuation of the second micromirror. To our knowledge this is the first demonstration of the use of multiple intracavity MEMS devices as active tuning elements in a single solid-state laser cavity. Furthermore, we present the first demonstration of control over the output wavelength of a solid-state laser using a micromirror and a prism in an intracavity Littman configuration. A static tilt actuation of the micromirror resulted in tuning the output wavelength of an Yb:KGW laser from 1024 nm to 1031.5 nm, with FWHM bandwidths between 0.2 nm and 0.4 nm. These proof-of-principle demonstrations provide the first steps towards a miniaturized, flexible solid-state laser system with potential defense and industrial applications.
MEMS scanners are of interest for their potential as low-cost, low operating power devices for use in various photonic systems. The devices reported here are actuated by the electromagnetic force between a static external magnetic field and a current flowing through an SOI MEMS scanner. These scanners have several modes of operation: their mirrors may be rotated and maintained at a static angle (up to ± 1.4 degrees), scanned rapidly (up to 500 Hz); or may be operated in a resonance mode, at the device’s mechanical resonance frequency (~1.2 kHz) for higher rate scanning. The use of these scanners as a Q-switching element within a Nd:YAG laser cavity has been demonstrated. Pulse durations of 400 ns were obtained with a pulse energy of 58 μJ and a pulse peak power of 145 W. The use of an external magnetic field, generated by compact rare-earth magnets, allows a simple and cost-effective commercial fabrication process to be employed (the multi-user SOI process provided by MEMSCAP Inc) and avoids the requirement to deposit magnetic materials on the MEMS structure.
Multiple individually-controllable Q-switched laser outputs from a single diode-pumped Nd:YAG module are presented by using an electrostatic MEMS scanning micromirror array as cavity end-mirror. The gold coated, 700 μm diameter and 25 μm thick, single-crystal silicon micromirrors possess resonant tilt frequencies of ~8 kHz with optical scan angles of up to 78°. Dual laser output resulting from the actuation of two neighboring mirrors was observed resulting in a combined average output power of 125 mW and pulse durations of 30 ns with resulting pulse energies of 7.9 μJ and 7.1 μJ. The output power was limited by thermal effects on the gold-coated mirror surface. Dielectric coatings with increased reflectivity and therefore lower thermal stresses are required to power-scale this technique. An initial SiO<sub>2</sub>/Nb<sub>2</sub>O<sub>5</sub> test coating was applied to a multi-mirror array with individual optical scan angles of 14° at a resonant tilt frequency of 10.4 kHz. The use of this dielectric coated array inside a 3-mirror Nd:YAG laser cavity led to a single mirror output with average Q-switched output power of 750 mW and pulse durations of 295 ns resulting in pulse energies of 36 μJ.