This paper summarizes recent improvements of output characteristics of polycrystalline Cr:ZnS/Se master oscillators in Kerr-Lens-Mode-Locked regime. We developed a flexible design of femtosecond polycrystalline Cr:ZnS and Cr:ZnSe lasers and amplifiers in the spectral range 2–3 μm. We obtained few-optical-cycle pulses with multi-Watt average power in very broad range of repetition rates 0.08–1.2 GHz. We also report on efficient nonlinear frequency conversion directly in the polycrystalline gain elements of ultra-fast lasers and amplifiers. In this work we also report on recent progress in spinning ring gain element technology and report to the best of our knowledge the highest output power of 9.2 W Fe:ZnSe laser operating in CW regime at 4150nm.
Degenerate (subharmonic) optical parametric oscillators (OPO) show great promise for the generation of broadband mid-infrared (MIR) frequency combs. Their main features are low pump threshold, dramatic extension of the spectrum of the pump laser, and phase locking to the pump frequency comb. Here we report on obtaining instantaneous spectrum ranging from 2.85 to 8.40 μm at -40 dB level from a subharmonic OPO pumped by an ultrafast Cr2+:ZnS laser. Our experimental setup includes a free running Kerr lens mode locked 2.35 μm Cr2+:ZnS laser, with 62-fs time-bandwidth limited pulse duration, 630-mW average power, and 79 MHz repetition rate that synchronously pumps a ring-cavity orientation-patterned (OP-GaAs) based OPO. A 0.5-mm-long OP-GaAs crystal has a quasi-phase-matching (QPM) period of 88 μm and is designed to provide a broadband parametric gain at OPO degeneracy. A 0.3-mm-thick ZnSe wedge inside the cavity was used to minimize group velocity dispersion. Spectral span of 1.56 octaves in the MIR that we achieved can be further improved by fabricating an in-coupling dielectric mirror with (i) broader reflectivity range and (ii) with compensation of the residual group velocity dispersion. The broad spectrum achieved, 2.85 - 8.40 μm (2320 cm-1 wide instantaneous span), overlaps with a plethora of fundamental molecular IR resonances and can be used for frequency comb spectroscopic detection applied to such fields as remote sensing, study of fast combustion dynamics and medical diagnostics, to name a few.
This paper summarizes recent improvements of output characteristics of polycrystalline Cr:ZnS/Se master oscillators in Kerr-Lens-Mode-Locked regime: 1.9 W average power at 41 fs pulse duration, 24 nJ pulse energy and 515 kW peak power with efficiency of 19% with regards to 1567 nm pump power from linearly polarized Er-fiber laser. A simple design of mid-IR fs Cr:ZnS MOPA enabled power scaling to 6.8 W at 79 MHz repetition rate. This was accompanied by a 2 fold spectral broadening to 600 nm at -10 dB level, pulse compression from 44 to <30 fs, and overall 25 % optical to optical efficiency. Improved dispersion management of the resonator enabled pulse duration of Cr:ZnS master oscillator approaching 2 optical cycles (<26 fs) and 500 nm (27 THz) bandwidth of the spectrum at half-maximum. Further improvements of the optical coatings will result in octave-spanning polycrystalline Cr2+:ZnS/ZnSe lasers. In this work we also report on recent progress in spinning ring gain element technology and show new unprecedented output power levels for Cr:ZnSe laser gain media: ~140 W at 2400-2500 nm spectral range and ~32 W at 2940-2950 nm in CW regime of operation. High gain of the spinning ring Cr:ZnSe power amplifier demonstrated in this work may potentially enable scaling up the femtosecond mid-IR Cr:ZnS MOPA up to 70-100W.
Cr2+ doped ZnS and ZnSe possess a unique blend of physical, spectroscopic, and technological parameters. These laser materials feature ultra-broadband gain in 1.9 – 3.3 μm mid-IR range, low saturation intensities, and large pump absorption coefficients. The II-VI semiconductor hosts provide a low phonon cut-off, broad IR transparency, and high second and third order nonlinearity. Cr:ZnS and Cr:ZnSe are available in polycrystalline form: the material consists of a multitude of microscopic single-crystal grains with a broad distribution of grain sizes and orientations, which results in random quasi-phase-matching (RQPM). The distinctive features of RQPM are a linear dependence of the conversion yield with length of the medium and ultra-wide bandwidth of three-wave mixing. We review resent experimental results on optically pumped mid-IR ultrafast lasers based on polycrystalline Cr:ZnS and Cr:ZnSe. We demonstrate that Kerrlens mode-locking of polycrystalline Cr:ZnS and Cr:ZnSe lasers allow for generation of few-cycle mid-IR pulses with MW-level peak power. This opens several avenues for efficient nonlinear frequency conversion of short optical pulses directly in the laser gain medium via RQPM process. We implemented Kerr-lens mode-locked Cr:ZnS oscillators, which feature high power (up to 0.25 W), spectrally broad (up to 22 THz) second harmonic generation (SHG) in the laser medium. We also demonstrate simple and robust ultrafast source based on single-pass continuously pumped polycrystalline Cr:ZnS laser amplifier: mid-IR pulses with 6.8 W average power and the spectrum spanning 2.0–2.6 μm as well as SHG pulses with 0.52 W average power and 1.05 – 1.25 μm spectral span were obtained.
Progress in fabrication and mid-IR lasing of Cr and Fe thermal-diffusion and radiation enhanced thermal diffusion doped II-VI binary and ternary polycrystals is reported. We demonstrate novel design of mid-IR Fe:ZnSe and Cr:ZnSe/S solid state lasers with significant improvement of output average power up to 35W@4.1 μm and 57W@2.5 μm and 20W@2.94 μm. We report significantly improved output characteristics of polycrystalline Cr:ZnS/Se lasers in gain-switched regime: 16 mJ at 200 Hz, pulse duration 5 ns with tunability over 2400-3000 nm as well as Kerr-Lens-Mode-Locked regime in terms of average power (up to 2 W), peak power and pulse energy (0.5 MW and 24 nJ, respectively), and pulse duration (less than 29 fs).
We report a novel design of CW Cr2+:ZnS/ZnSe laser systems and demonstrate record output powers of 27.5 W at 2.45 μm and 13.9 W at 2.94 μm with slope efficiencies of 63.7% and 37.4%, respectively. Power scaling of ultra-fast Cr2+:ZnS/ZnSe Kerr mode-locked lasers beyond 2 W level, as well as the shortest pulse duration of 29 fs, are also reported. New development of Fe:ZnSe laser with average output power > 35 W at 4.1 μm output wavelength and 100 Hz pulse repetition rate (PRR) was achieved in a nonselective cavity. With intracavity prim selector, wavelength tunability of 3.88-4.17 μm was obtained with maximum average output power of 23 W. We also report new results on Tm-fiber pumped passively and actively Q-switched Ho:YAG laser systems. High peak power actively Q-switched Ho:YAG laser demonstrates stable operation with pulse energy > 50 mJ, 12 ns pulse duration, and 100-1000 Hz PRR which correspondents to more than 4 MW peak power. The actively Q-switched Ho:YAG laser system optimized for high repetition rate delivers 40 W average output power at 10-100 kHz PRR. The Ho:YAG laser with passive Q-switcher demonstrates constant 5 mJ output energy from 200 Hz to 2.23 kHz PRR with optical slope efficiency with respect to Tm-fiber laser of ~43%.