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Proceedings Paper

Using a Newport refractive beam shaper to generate high-quality flat-top spatial profiles from a flashlamp-pumped commercial Nd:YAG laser
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Paper Abstract

We've generated high-quality flat-top spatial profiles from a modified Continuum Powerlite 9010 Nd:YAG laser using the Gaussian-to-flat-top refractive beam shaper available from Newport Corporation. The Powerlite is a flashlamp-pumped, Q-switched, injection-seeded Nd:YAG laser manufactured in 1993 that delivers 1.6 J at 10 Hz using an oscillator and two 9 mm diameter amplifier rods. While its pulse energy is impressive, its beam quality is typically poor, an all too common characteristic of research-grade Nd:YAG lasers manufactured in the late 1980's and early 1990's. Structure in its near-field spatial fluence profile is reminiscent of round-aperture diffraction that is superposed with additional hot spots. These characteristics are largely due to poor beam quality from the oscillator coupled with over-filled amplifier rods, and reflect a design philosophy from the era of organic dye lasers. When these older laser systems are used for tasks like pumping optical parametric oscillators (OPO's), or for other applications demanding good beam quality, their designs are simply inadequate. To improve the 9010's beam quality we spatially filter the oscillator beam and remove the resulting Airy rings with an iris, then collimate and magnify the remaining central disk so its diameter is appropriate for input to the refractive shaper. The output of the beam shaper is then double-pass amplified through two amplifier rods with thermally induced focusing compensated by a negative lens before the first pass and by a convex mirror before the second pass. Using this approach we've obtained single-pass energy exceeding 250 mJ with little degradation of the flat-top profile and 950 mJ after double pass amplification. After double-passing the two amplifier rods the beam suffers some degradation in symmetry and uniformity, but is still much improved compared to the beam obtained using the 9010's original factory configuration. We find the modified 9010's flat-top profile improves conversion efficiency when used for our applications in crystal nonlinear optics.

Paper Details

Date Published: 29 September 2004
PDF: 10 pages
Proc. SPIE 5525, Laser Beam Shaping V, (29 September 2004); doi: 10.1117/12.557848
Show Author Affiliations
Darrell J. Armstrong, Sandia National Labs. (United States)
Arlee V. Smith, Sandia National Labs. (United States)

Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 5525:
Laser Beam Shaping V
Fred M. Dickey; David L. Shealy, Editor(s)

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