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Fiber laser emits record power

07 Feb 2003

UK researchers develop a singlemode fiber laser with a record output power of 270 W.

Scientists from Southampton Photonics (SPI), UK, claim to have built a singlemode fiber laser with an output power of 270 W -- allegedly the highest reported value to date. The results were unveiled at the Photonics West show last week by Johan Nilsson, a researcher with SPI and Southampton University's Optoelectronics Research Centre.

Nilsson and colleagues observed singlemode output powers of 270 W from a ytterbium-doped fiber laser operating at 1080 nm and 100 W from a erbium-ytterbium-doped fiber laser at 1565 nm. According to Stuart Woods, SPI's director of business development, the cladding-pumped fiber lasers have a M2 beam quality value of around 2, but that this can be improved.

SPI expects that singlemode fiber lasers with kilowatt level output powers will soon be achievable. It has just won a contract from the US government to make a 1 kW fiber laser which is singlemode, single-frequency and single polarization and has a M2 value of 1.

"What we're talking about here is expanding the use of fiber lasers into power regimes that have not been achievable before with singlemode operation," commented Woods. "Our approach is get the beam quality right and then scale up the power. Our ring-doped technology allows high powers but preserves singlemode operation."

According to Woods, the company is planning to release a range of high power fiber lasers for industrial applications such as marking, cutting and welding at the LASER 2003 show in Munich in June. He is adamant that in terms of price and performance, fiber lasers will offer very strong competition to other laser technologies.

"The one thing that the telecom bubble did for us, is that it has allowed us to get very reliable pump laser diodes at a quality level and a price point that we need," said Woods. "Next year, it will be a very good battle between fiber lasers and traditional lasers."

Oliver Graydon is editor of Optics.org and Opto & Laser Europe magazine.

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