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The Amazing World of Lasers Alexey Belyanin Department of Physics, TAMU

The Amazing World of Lasers Alexey Belyanin Department of Physics, TAMU. Laser Definition and History Laser Radiation Laser System Active Medium and Pump Laser Cavity Laser Types and Applications. LASER = Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation.

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The Amazing World of Lasers Alexey Belyanin Department of Physics, TAMU

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  1. The Amazing World of LasersAlexey BelyaninDepartment of Physics, TAMU • Laser Definition and History • Laser Radiation • Laser System • Active Medium and Pump • Laser Cavity • Laser Types and Applications

  2. LASER = Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation Laser is a device which transforms energy from other forms into (coherent and highly directional) electromagnetic radiation. • Chemical energy • Electron beam • Electric current • Electromagnetic radiation • … • 1917 – A. Einstein postulates photons and stimulated emission • 1954 – First microwave laser (MASER), Townes, Shawlow, Prokhorov • 1960 – First optical laser (Maiman) • 1964 – Nobel Prize in Physics: Townes, Prokhorov, Basov

  3. Microwave ammonia laser  = 24 GHz

  4. Ruby laser Cr+3 ions lightly doped in a corundum crystal matrix (0.05% by weight Cr2O3 versus Al2O3)  = 693 nm

  5. Electromagnetic spectrum

  6. Laser radiation • Monochromaticity • Directionality • Coherence

  7. Monochromaticity

  8. Directionality Radiation comes out of the laser in a certain direction, and spreads at a defined divergence angle () This angular spreading of a laser beam is very small compared to other sources of electromagnetic radiation, and described by a small divergence angle (of the order of milli-radians) Lamp: W = 100 W, at R = 2 m He-Ne Laser: W = 1 mW, r = 2 mm, R = r + R /2 = 2.1 mm, I = 8 mW/cm2

  9. Coherence Laser radiation is composed of waves at the same wavelength, which start at the same time and keep their relative phase as they advance.

  10. Interference Young Interference Experiment

  11. Michelson Interferometer Nobel Prize in Physics 1907

  12. For a completely coherent wave, defining its phase along particular surface at specific time, automatically determine its phase at all points in space at all time. • Temporal Coherence is related to monochromaticity. • Spatial Coherence is related to directionality and uniphase wavefronts. Coherence time tc ~ 1/, where  is linewidth of laser radiation Coherence Length (Lc) is the maximum path difference which still shows interference: Lc = ctc = c/ Typical laser linewidths: from MHz to many GHz Record values ~ kHz

  13. Laser System • Active (gain) medium that can amplify light that passes through it • Energy pump source to create a population inversion in the gain medium • Two mirrors that form a resonator cavity

  14. Amplifier vs. Generator No (or negative) feedback: Positive feedback:

  15. Active medium N1, N2, N3 … – populations of states 1,2,3, … Population inversion:N2 > N1or N3 > N2etc.

  16. Thermodynamic equilibrium N2/N1 = = exp(-(E2-E1)/kT) In optics E2 – E1 ~ 1 eV while at room temperature kT = 0.025 eV. Therefore, N2/N1 ~ 10-18

  17. Three one-photon interactions between radiation and matter • Photon Absorption Absorption rate: d N2(t)/dt = K n(t) N1(t) n(t) - number of incoming photons per unit volume

  18. 2. Spontaneous emission of a photon Spontaneous decay rate: d N2(t)/dt = - g21 N2(t) = - N2(t)/ t2 Solution: N2(t) = N2(0) exp(-g21t) = N2(0) exp(-t/ t2) Spontaneous photons are emitted randomly and in all directions

  19. 3. Stimulated emission of a photon d N2(t)/dt = - K n(t) N2(t) Proportionality constant (K) for stimulated emission and (stimulated) absorption are identical. • Stimulated photons have the same frequency and direction. • Stimulated emission is a result of resonance response of the atom to a • forcing signal!

  20. Rate Equations dN2(t)/dttot = dN2(t)/dtabsorp+ dN2(t)/dtStimul+ dN2(t)/dtSpontan = +Kn(t)[N1(t)-N2(t)]-g21N2(t) = - dN1(t)/dttot dn(t)/dt = -K [N1(t)-N2(t)] n(t) n(t) = n(0) exp[-K(N1-N2)t]; N2 > N1 is needed for amplification

  21. Three-level laser scheme For population inversion, more than 50% of all atoms must be in state 2. Very tough requirement!

  22. Four-level laser scheme Much lower pumping rate is needed

  23. Helium-Neon laser

  24. Laser Threshold Sources of losses: • Scattering and absorption losses at the end mirrors. • Output radiation through the output coupler. • Scattering and absorption losses in the active medium, and at the side walls. • Diffraction losses because of the finite size of the laser components. At threshold the gain should be equal to losses

  25. Gain spectrum can be very broad

  26. Broadening of the gain spectrum

  27. Laser Cavity

  28. Longitudinal modes in Fabry-Perot cavity

  29. Hole burning in the gain spectrum

  30. Transverse modes

  31. How to make a laser operate in a single basic transverse mode?

  32. Laser Types • Lasers can be divided into groups according to different criteria: • The state of matter of the active medium: solid, liquid, gas, or plasma. • The spectral range of the laser wavelength: visible, Infra-Red (IR), etc. • The excitation (pumping) method of the active medium: Optical pumping, electric pumping, etc. • The characteristics of the radiation emitted from the laser. • Thenumber of energy levels which participate in the lasing process.

  33. Classification by active medium • Gas lasers (atoms, ions, molecules) • Solid-state lasers • Semiconductor lasers • Diode lasers • Unipolar (quantum cascade) lasers • Dye lasers (liquid) • X-ray lasers • Free electron lasers

  34. Gas Lasers • The laser active medium is a gas at a low pressure (A few milli-torr). • The main reasons for using low pressure are: • To enable an electric discharge in a long path, while the electrodes are at both ends of a long tube. • To obtain narrow spectral width not expanded by collisions between atoms. • The first gas laser was operated by T. H. Maiman in 1961, one year after the first laser (Ruby) was demonstrated. • The first gas laser was a Helium-Neon laser, operating at a wavelength of 1152.27 [nm] (Near Infra-Red).

  35. Pumping by electric discharge

  36. Argon ion laser High power, but low efficiency

  37. CO2 Laser

  38. Gas lasers exist in nature! • Stellar atmospheres • Planetary atmospheres • Interstellar medium

  39. Solid state lasers Nd ions in YAG crystal host

  40. Inertial confinement for nuclear fusion

  41. Laser Fusion

  42. D + T ==> 4He + n + 17.6 [MeV]

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