Compact solid-state sources and their applications
October 25, 2004
Coherent solid-state optical sources based on Nd:YAG/Cr4+:YAG passively Q-switched microchip lasers cover the spectral range from 5000 to 200 nm, producing multikilohertz pulse trains with pulse durations as short as 100 ps and peak powers up to 1 MW. The wavelength diversity is achieved through harmonic conversion, parametric conversion, Raman conversion, and microchip-laser-pumped miniature gain-switched lasers. In all cases, the optical heads have been packaged in a volume of less than 0.5 liters. These compact, robust devices have the proven capability to take what were complicated laser-based experiments out of the laboratory and into the field, enabling applications in diverse areas. The short pulses are useful for high-precision ranging using time-of-flight techniques, with applications in 3-dimensional imaging, target identification, and robotics. The short pulse durations and ideal mode properties are also useful for material characterization. The high peak powers can be focused to photoablate material, with applications in laserinduced breakdown spectroscopy and micromachining. Ultraviolet systems have been used to perform fluorescence spectroscopy for applications including environmental monitoring and the detection of biological aerosols. Systems based on passively Q-switched microchip lasers, like the lasers themselves, are small, robust, and potentially low cost, making them ideally suited for field applications.