Index-antiguided planar waveguide lasers with large mode area
The on-going research and application interests with high power large-mode-area (LMA) waveguide lasers, especially in fiber geometry, at the beginning of this century drive the development of many novel waveguide designs. Index antiguiding, proposed by Siegman in 2003, is among one of them. The goal for index antiguiding is to introduce transversal modal loss with the relative simple waveguide design while maintain single transverse mode operation for good beam quality. The idea which is selectively support of fundamental mode is facilitated by involving certain level of signal regeneration inside the waveguide core. Since the modal loss is closed associated with waveguide design parameters such as core size and refractive index, the amount of gain inside the core provides active control of transverse modes inside index-antiguiding waveguide. For example, fundamental transverse mode inside such waveguide can be excited and propagate lossless when sufficient optical gain is provided. This often requires doped waveguide core and optical pumping at corresponding absorption band. However, the involvement of optical pumping also has its consequences. Phenomena such as thermal-optic effect and gain spatial hole-burning which are commonly found in bulk lasers request attention when scaling up output power with LMA index-antiguided waveguide amplifiers and resonators. In response, three key challenges of index-antiguided planar waveguide lasers, namely, guiding mechanism, power efficiency and transverse mode discrimination, are analyzed theoretically and experimentally in this dissertation. Experiments are based on two index-antiguided planar waveguide chips, whose core thickness are 220 µm and 400 µm respectively. The material of waveguide core is 1% Neodymium-doped Yttrium Aluminium garnet, or Nd:YAG while the cladding is made from Terbium Gallium garnet, or TGG. Due to the face pumping and limited pump power, it is found, with 220 µm-thick-core chip, that the guidance of the fundamental transverse mode along two orthogonal directions in a transverse plane is different. Along the bounded direction, index antiguiding prevails with negligible thermal refractive focusing while along the unbounded direction, the lasing mode is guided by thermal refractive focusing with negligible quadratic gain focusing. It is also founded that the quadratic thermal focusing will dominate the mode guidance in 220 µm chip with the help of additional pump. All these discovery calls for an active thermal control. The modal discriminative loss, though beneficial for transverse mode control, yet reduces the lasing efficiency. To model it, a 3-D lasing output power calculation model is developed based on spatial rate equations. The simulation results show good agreement with experiment data where slope efficiency curve are measured using multiple output couplers. The 10% slope efficiency with respect to incident pump power is the highest slope efficiency recorded in index-antiguided waveguide continuous-wave lasers. The model indicates more efficient pump absorption can facilitate further power scaling. The role of the modal discriminative loss in transverse mode competition is discussed. A theoretical model based on Rigrod analysis and spatial hole-burning is developed. The simulation shows reasonable agreement with experiment results in both chips. The single fundamental mode operation up to 10 times above the lasing threshold for 220 µm chip is achieved, which is limited by the incident pump power. However, as the core size increases, the modal distributed loss due to the index antiguiding is found to be less effective in transverse mode control. Other modal loss is needed to facilitate the suppression of higher-order modes. Based on the model, a strategy is proposed aiming to maximize the single mode output. It is also noted that the transverse mode competition model is also suitable for other lasers system with well-defined modal loss. Based on the models and experiment data, the index-antiguided planar waveguide lasers are proved to be capable of maintaining large-mode-area single transverse mode operation with the potential of power scaling. However, it is also shown that proper waveguide design is essential. The remaining challenges are the material choices for waveguide fabrication, especially for high power applications.