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Spie Press Book

Field Guide to Laser Pulse Generation
Author(s): Rüdiger Paschotta
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Book Description

This Field Guide provides the essential information on laser pulse generation, including Q switching, gain switching, mode locking, and the amplification of ultrashort pulses to high energies. Pulse characterization is also covered, along with the physical aspects and various technical limitations. This Guide is designed for industry practitioners, researchers, users of pulsed and ultrafast laser systems, and anyone wanting to learn more about the potential of different pulse generation methods.

Book Details

Date Published: 30 October 2008
Pages: 132
ISBN: 9780819472489
Volume: FG14

Table of Contents
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Glossary of Symbols
Introduction to Optical Pulses
Optical Pulses in the Time Domain
Optical Pulses in the Frequency Domain
Bandwidth-Limited Pulses
Pulse Trains and Frequency Combs
Carrier-Envelope Offset
Overview on Laser Sources for Optical Pulses
Q Switching
The Principle of Q switching
Active and Passive Q Switching
Essentials of Laser Dynamics
Pumping the Gain Medium
Dynamics of Active Q Switching
Achievable Pulse Energy
Pulse Duration and Build-Up Time
Influence of the Pulse Repetition Rate
Dynamics of Passive Q Switching
Pulse duration and Pulse Energy
Saturable Absorbers for Q Switching
Influence of Pump Fluctuations
Mode Beating in Multimode Lasers
Q-Switched Solid-State Bulk Lasers
Q-Switched Microchip Lasers
Q-Switched Fiber Lasers
Multiple Pulsing and Instabilities
Cavity Dumping
Gain Switching
Gain Switching
Comparison with Other Techniques
Mode Locking
Active Mode Locking
Passive Mode Locking
Mode Locking with Fast Saturable Absorbers
Mode Locking with Slow Saturable Absorbers
Chromatic Dispersion
Dispersive Pulse Broadening
Effect of Dispersion in Mode-Locked Lasers
Dispersion Compensation in Laser Resonators
The Kerr Nonlinearity
Self-Phase Modulation
Optical Solitons
Quasi-Soliton Pulses in Laser Resonators
Semiconductor Saturable Absorbers
Other Saturable Absorbers for Mode Locking
Initiation of Mode Locking
Q-Switching Instabilities
Actively Mode-Locked Solid-State Bulk Lasers
Harmonic Mode Locking
Passively Mode-Locked Solid-State Bulk Lasers
Performance Figures of Mode-Locked Bulk Lasers
Choice of Solid-State Gain Media
Additive-Pulse Mode Locking
Kerr Lens Mode Locking
Generation of Few-Cycle Pulses
Mode-Locked High-Power Thin-Disk Lasers
Miniature Lasers with High Repetition Rates
Mode-Locked Fiber Lasers
Soliton Fiber Lasers
Limitations of Soliton Fiber Lasers
Stretched-Pulse Fiber Lasers
Similariton Fiber Lasers
Mode-Locked Diode Lasers
Mode-Locked VECSELs
Frequency Combs and Carrier-Envelope Offset
Instabilities of Mode-Locked Lasers
Cavity Dumping
Amplification of Ultrashort Pulses
Essential Issues: Dispersion and Nonlinearities
Multipass Solid-State Bulk Amplifiers
Regenerative Amplifiers
Fiber Amplifiers
Chirped-Pulse Amplification
Optical Parametric Amplifiers
Pulse Characterization
Overview on Pulse Characterization
Measurement of Pulse Energy and Peak Power
Pulse Characterization with FROG
Pulse Characterization with SPIDER
Measurement of the Carrier-Envelope Offset
Timing Jitter of Mode-Locked Lasers
Measurement of Timing Jitter


An optical pulse is a flash of light. Lasers and related devices have an amazing potential for generating light pulses with very special properties:

  • There is a wide range of techniques for generating pulses with durations of nanoseconds, picoseconds, or even femtoseconds with lasers. Such short durations make light pulses very interesting for many applications, such as telecommunications or ultraprecise measurements of various kinds.

  • Laser pulses are essentially always delivered in the form of a laser beam (i.e., they propagate in a well-defined direction). The high spatial coherence of such beams allows laser pulses to focus to very small spots, sometimes with areas below 1 μm2. The combination of a small spot size with a short pulse duration leads to very high optical intensities, even if the pulse energy is moderate. The deposition of energy with extremely high concentration in both space and time is essential for applications in material processing, such as micromachining, where it is exploited that ultrashort pulses create only a very small heat-affected zone around a cut. Other applications are in fundamental sciences (e.g., for the study of matter under the influence of extremely high optical intensities).

  • In some cases, the high temporal coherence within trains of ultrashort pulses is essential. For example, ultraprecise optical clocks exploit this feature.

It is important to note that laser pulses span an enormously large parameter space in terms of pulse duration, pulse energy, and wavelength. This is possible only with a wide range of techniques, the most common of which are discussed in this Field Guide.

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