Contaminants can severely limit the efficiency, laser damage threshold, and strength of photonic crystal fiber-based lasers. Such contamination can occur due to environmental exposure during the pulling or stacking of rods and tubes or improper handling and storage of these glass components. A preform made by the “stack and draw” process is susceptible to incorporating surface contaminants into the bulk laser glass.
We have adapted cleaning and handling protocols originally developed for processing large fused silica optics for the National Ignition Facility. The etch cleaning process reported here mimics the “AMP” or “Advanced Mitigation Process” developed for NIF optics that see high fluence 351nm light. In addition, all cleaning, fixturing and assembly processes used to prep a stack for pulling into a fiber are done in a Class 100 cleanroom. Glass rods (1-3mm in diameter and 10” long) are assembled into a Teflon fixture that only contacts the rods at each end. The loaded fixture receives 120kHz ultrasonic cleaning in 10% sodium hydroxide at 45C and 3% Brulin 1696 detergent at 55C. Parts are thoroughly rinsed using ultrasonicated ultrapure water and spray rinses. A 200nm etch in buffered hydrofluoric acid (6:1 BOE diluted 2:1 in DI water) is followed by additional ultasonicated (120kHz-270kHz) ultrapure water and spray rinse. Finally, the components are allowed to fully dry inside the Teflon frame. The rods are cleaned, stacked, and assembled into a fused silica tube.
The preform stack is then returned to a non-cleanroom area to be pulled into fiber using standard telecom fiber-based draw tower equipment and without clean air filters around the draw area. Four fibers were made to test independently the damage threshold and the background loss, two Yb core active fibers and two silica core (F clad) fibers. One of each was cleaned with the AMP process, and one of each with a methanol wipe cleaning process. The active fiber was coated with a dual acrylate coating, first with a low-index inner coating to provide a pump cladding, and then with a relatively hard coating to protect the relatively soft primary coating. The active fibers were pumped at 980nm in a double Fresnel cavity configuration and the power increased until the fiber was damaged up to 1kW. The passive fiber background loss was measured using a standard cut-back technique. Replacing the former methanol wipe clean process with this aqueous cleaning process improved the 1060nm damage threshold of a fiber laser by >30x to above the kW level in the laboratory and reduced the background attenuation by >18x. Early indications are that the acid etching also makes the tensile strength of the fiber consistently high.
This work was performed under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Energy by Lawrence
Livermore National Laboratory under Contract DE-AC52-07NA27344.
We present 10W single-mode fiber laser based on Nd+3 fiber operating at 1428nm. All-solid fused silica microstructured waveguide fiber design is employed to suppress amplification at 1μm. The Nd+3 fiber is pumped by commercial multi-mode 880nm diode.