Ultrafast Terahertz sources with high average power are of increasing interest for various spectroscopic investigations, currently limited by signal-to-noise ratio. A straightforward path to increase the average power of THz sources is to make use of state-of-the-art femtosecond near infrared driving lasers with higher average power than the commonly used Ti:Sa lasers. Diode pumped solid state lasers based on Yb now reliably provide from hundreds of watts up to kilowatts of average power with sub-ps pulses, while THz generation with more than a few tens of watts driving power remains widely unexplored. Among these technologies, modelocked thin-disk oscillators are particularly attractive to drive high power, high repetition rate THz sources, providing hundreds of watts directly from a compact one-box oscillator without the need for any additional amplification stages, thereby reducing the overall system complexity.
Here, we will present our recent results using optical rectification (OR) in GaP and Lithium Niobate (LN), driven by a home-built Yb:YAG femtosecond modelocked thin-disk oscillator with an average power of more than 100 W at 13 MHz repetition rate. Using GaP, we achieve milliwatt average power levels with a bandwidth extending > 6 THz making this an ideal tool for THz-TDS for example of absorptive samples. Using the tilted pulse front scheme in LN, we achieve THz powers exceeding 40 mW at 13 MHz repetition rate, which represents the highest average power of any THz sources with MHz repetition rate. Additionally to these results, we will present our ongoing investigation of thermal effects and further average power scaling of OR in this unusual excitation regime.
Rare-earth-doped calcium niobium gallium garnets (Ca3Nb1.5Ga3.5O12, shortly CNGG) are disordered laser materials attractive for ultrashort pulse generation. We report on the crystal growth by the Czochralski method, spectroscopy and efficient laser operation of Yb3+,Na+ and Yb3+,Na+,Li+-codoped CNGG-type crystals. Their cubic structure is confirmed by X-ray diffraction and Raman spectroscopy. The absorption / stimulated-emission cross-sections and lifetime of Yb3+ are determined. Continuous-wave (CW) laser experiments are performed in a compact cavity using a 968-nm InGaAs pump laser diode. A 11.9 at.% Yb,Na:CNGG crystal generated 3.74 W at 1069.9 nm with a slope efficiency of 56.5%. Yb,Na:CNGG is promising for sub-100-fs mode-locked lasers at ~1 μm.
Tm,Ho co-doped disordered calcium niobium gallium garnet (CNGG) crystals are investigated as a novel gain medium for mode-locked lasers near 2 μm. With a GaSb-based semiconductor saturable absorber mirror (SESAM) and chirped mirrors for dispersion compensation such a laser is mode-locked at a repetition rate of 89.3 MHz. For a 5% output coupler, a maximum average output power of 157 mW is obtained with a pulse duration of 170 fs (28-nm broad spectrum centered at 2.075 μm, leading to a time-bandwidth product of 0.331). With a 0.5% output coupler, 73-fs pulses are generated at 2.061 μm with a spectral width of 62 nm (time-bandwidth product of 0.320) and an average output power of 36 mW.
Mode-locked lasers emitting ultrashort pulses in the 2-μm spectral range at high (100-MHz) repetition rates offer unique opportunities for time-resolved molecular spectroscopy and are interesting as pump/seed sources for parametric frequency down-conversion and as seeders of ultrafast regenerative laser amplifiers. Passively mode-locked lasers based on Tm3+- and Ho3+-doped bulk solid-state materials have been under development for about a decade. In 2009 we demonstrated the first steady-state operation of such a Tm:KLu(WO4)2 laser using a single-walled carbon nanotube (SWCNT) saturable absorber (SA), generating 10-ps pulses at 1.95 μm. In 2012 this laser produced 141-fs pulses at 2.037 μm. More recently, the study of numerous active media with different SAs resulted in the generation of sub-100-fs (sub-10-optical-cycle) pulses. Materials with broad and smooth spectral gain profile were selected, naturally emitting above 2 μm to avoid water vapor absorption/dispersion effects, including anisotropic materials, strong crystal-field distortion in hosts that do not contain rare-earths, crystals with structural or compositional (i.e. mixed compounds) disorder that exhibit inhomogeneous line broadening, mixed laser ceramics, and Tm,Ho-codoping of ordered and disordered crystals and ceramics. A broad absorption band in semiconducting SWCNTs spans from 1.6 to 2.1-μm whereas the absorption of graphene extends into the mid-IR and scales for multilayers, increasing the modulation depth. Compared to GaSb-based semiconductor SA mirrors (SESAMs), the carbon nanostructures exhibit broader spectral response and can be fabricated by simpler and inexpensive techniques. Chirped mirrors were implemented for groupvelocity dispersion compensation, to generate the shortest pulses, down to 52 fs at 2.015 μm.