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Ceramic lasers diversify again

14 Aug 2003

Scientists in Japan and Russia unveil a ceramic-disk laser based on ytterbium-doped scandium oxide.

A collaboration of scientists in Japan and Russia has built a ceramic-disk laser based on a ytterbium-doped scandium oxide crystal. The Yb3+:Sc2O3 laser is said to emit up to 420 mW at 1094 nm. (Applied Physics Letters 83 1101)

The team says that existing crystal pulling methods do not produce large-scale single crystals with sufficient optical quality to support laser oscillations. But thanks to a method developed by Japan’s Konoshima Chemical Company combining nanocrystalline technology with vacuum sintering, a variety of new polycrystalline ceramic materials have been grown.

The impressive list of ceramic lasers includes systems based on Nd:YAG, Yb:YAG and Nd: Lu2O3 crystals. The latest addition to the list is a laser based on a 13 mm diameter, 2.3 mm thick plate of 2.5 at. % doped Yb3+:Sc2O3.

“Because Yb3+:Sc2O3 has a high melting temperature, it is extremely difficult to grow as a single crystal,” Jianren Lu from Japan’s University of Electro-communications told Optics.org. “But using ceramic sintering, we can fabricate a polycrystalline version of the material. Our technology is the best one to get highly transparent polycrystalline ceramic laser materials and the only one to yield high-quality, large-size Sc2O3 laser materials.”

Lu and colleagues report that the Yb3+:Sc2O3 crystal has an absorption peak between 932 and 955 nm. Because of this broadband absorption feature, the researchers are able to pump the crystal with a 940 nm diode laser, without the need for accurate temperature control of the diode.

For a pump power of 8.8 W, the team recorded a laser output of 420 mW and a corresponding slope efficiency of 9%.

“From the initial work on the material, it has a very good laser performance, low laser threshold, high quantum efficiency and a high thermal conductivity, so of course we have plans to commercialize it,” said Lu. “If commercialized, such laser materials would be sold by Konoshima Chemical Company, Japan.”

Jacqueline Hewett is news reporter on Optics.org and Opto & Laser Europe magazine.

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