Optical EngineeringHigh-repetition-rate oscillators based on athermal glass rods and on birefringence correction techniques
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A high-repetition-rate oscillator, based on a flashlamp-pumped Q-100-clad athermal phosphate glass rod in a stable cavity, was developed to act as the driver for a high-repetition-rate Nd:glass laser system. Although the athermal properties compensated to a large extent for thermal lensing, birefringence losses in a conventional linear cavity containing a polarizer, as required for Q-switched operation, reduced pulse energy by up to a factor of 3 when the repetition rate was increased from single shot to 50% of fracture-limit pump conditions. Several birefringence compensation techniques were evaluated with the best results obtained in a reentrant (Y-cavity) design, with a Faraday rotator to partially compensate for birefringence and a mirror to reinsert polarizer-rejected light, so that the light quadruple passed the laser head per cavity round-trip and egressed through the output mirror (the only oscillator exit port). Birefringence losses were then reduced to 20%. High-repetition-rate TEM 00 operation was obtained by using a long (223-cm) cavity, and by placing the Faraday rotator/laser head together with a large mode selection aperture next to the curved back mirror.