|Número de publicación||USRE42499 E1|
|Tipo de publicación||Concesión|
|Número de solicitud||US 10/224,158|
|Fecha de publicación||28 Jun 2011|
|Fecha de prioridad||23 Ene 1997|
|También publicado como||US5790303, US5963363|
|Número de publicación||10224158, 224158, US RE42499 E1, US RE42499E1, US-E1-RE42499, USRE42499 E1, USRE42499E1|
|Inventores||Jeremy Weston, William Eugene White, Leigh John Bromley, Frank Godwin Patterson|
|Cesionario original||Coherent, Inc.|
|Exportar cita||BiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan|
|Citas de patentes (64), Otras citas (51), Citada por (4), Clasificaciones (21)|
|Enlaces externos: USPTO, Cesión de USPTO, Espacenet|
This application is a continuation of application Ser. No. 08/787,991, filed on Jan. 23, 1997, which issued as U.S. Pat. No. 5,790,303 on Aug. 4, 1998.
1. Field of the Invention
This invention relates generally to the field of lasers, and more particularly to lasers for pumping optical amplifiers.
2. Description of the Background Art
Known amplifier systems employ a source laser, an amplifier, and a pump source to transfer energy to the amplifying medium, to generate amplified laser light. The source laser emits a beam of laser light that is amplified as it passes through the amplifier. The energy for the amplification is provided to the amplifier by the pump source, which is typically a laser. A pump laser generally includes a laser medium element, positioned between a high reflector and an output coupler, and a pumping means. The pumping means excites the atoms of the medium element into a metastable state. The relaxation of the excited atoms is accompanied by the emission of light, which is reflected back and fourth between the high reflector and the output coupler, and the growing reflected wave induces the emission of additional light into the reflected wave state. As the wave continues to grow, the output coupler allows a portion of the reflected light to pass as the output beam of the pump laser.
It is obviously desirable that the pump laser be efficient, powerful, reliable, and convenient to set up and operate, but often there is tension between these various design objectives. For example, diode lasers provide a very efficient pumping means and are more durable than lamps, but the output energy of known diode-pumped lasers has been too low for them to function effectively as amplifier pumping lasers. Further, some prior diode-pumped systems require that the pitch of the diode emitters be carefully matched and aligned to the optical path within the media element, reducing convenience of assembly.
More powerful pump lasers exist, but in each case the power increase comes at the expense of one of the other design objectives. For example, more power can be obtained by using gas filled lamps to excite the pump laser lasing medium, but these systems are less efficient, less reliable, and less robust. Additionally, such lasers generally have significant cooling requirements and require a special power service, as opposed to a standard 110V AC outlet.
Thus, there is a need for a laser amplifier system capable of producing an output that is orders of magnitude higher in energy than known diode-pumped systems. It is also desirable that the amplifier system be efficient, reliable, and convenient to set up and operate.
The present invention is an efficient, powerful and reliable optical amplification system. Seed-pulses are generated by a seed-pulse source and are transferred to an optical amplifier for amplification. The power for the amplification is provided by a Q-switched, diode-pumped, intracavity-doubled amplifier pump laser.
One embodiment of the amplifier pump laser includes a laser medium element that is pumped by a plurality of diode lasers to emit a beam of light at a first frequency along an optical path passing through the element. The pump laser also includes at least one reflector and an output coupler, for redirecting the beam along the optical path to establish an optical resonator. A Q-switch is disposed in the optical path to selectively frustrate or permit optical resonance, thereby enabling the laser to produce high-power output pulses, as opposed to low-power, continuous output. The output power of the pump laser is further enhanced by including a doubling crystal within the optical cavity. The doubling crystal is disposed in the optical path and converts a portion of the original oscillating wave to a new wave having twice the frequency of the original. The output coupler is highly reflective to the original frequency, but highly transmissive to the doubled frequency, and, therefore, passes the doubled frequency wave as output.
There are several specific embodiments of the amplifier pump laser of the present invention. One embodiment is characterized by a beam that is directed between two reflectors, along a folded optical path, by a beam director and an output coupler. Another embodiment is characterized by a straight optical path between one reflector and the output coupler. Finally, there are uni-directional and bi-directional ring configured embodiments.
One embodiment of the optical amplifier of the present invention is a regenerative amplifier which includes a gain medium element within an optically resonant cavity, a capturing means for switching seed-pulses into the cavity, and an ejecting means for switching amplified pulses out of the cavity. The output beam of the amplifier pump laser excites the gain medium, which amplifies the seed-pulse as it oscillates within the cavity. After amplification, the ejecting means switches the amplified pulse out of the cavity as the amplification system output.
Other embodiments of the optical amplifier include a ring configured regenerative amplifier and a multi-pass “bowtie” amplifier.
The present invention provides an efficient, powerful, reliable, and convenient optical amplification system. Numerous details, such as the number of diode lasers and the use of a regenerative amplifier, are provided for the sake of clarity, but it will be obvious to those skilled in the art that the invention can be practiced apart from these specific details. In other instances, details of well known equipment and processes are omitted so as not to obscure the invention.
Seed-pulse source 110 includes pump laser 122 and oscillator 124. Pump laser 122 provides optical energy, via optical path 126, which excites oscillator 124 to emit the seed-pulses along optical path 116. In the preferred embodiment, pump laser 122 is a continuous-wave laser and oscillator 124 is a titanium-sapphire oscillator. Seed-pulse sources are well known in the art, and therefore will not be discussed in greater detail.
Reflectors 202 and 216 are positioned at opposite ends of optical path 218, and each respectively has a reflective surface 220 and 222 which is substantially perpendicular to an incident segment of optical path 218. Therefore, any light traveling along optical path 218 which is incident on either reflector 202 or 216 is reflected back along optical path 218. Reflector 210 and output coupler 212 fold optical path 218 to pass between reflectors 202 and 216, through Q-switch 204, laser medium element 206 and frequency altering device 214. As the light oscillates back and forth between reflectors 202 and 216, the growing reflected wave induces the emission of additional light into the reflected wave state, thus amplifying the reflected wave.
Q-switch 204 is disposed in optical path 218 between reflector 202 and laser medium element 206 and selectively frustrates or permits oscillation. When oscillation is frustrated, the excited atoms are not induced to emit light, and the number of excited atoms can, therefore, be greatly increased. Then, when Q-switch 204 permits oscillation, a powerful pulse will be generated as the large number of excited atoms drop to the lower state, emitting light as they make the transition. Many Q-switching arrangements are known, including, but not limited to, bleachable absorbers that become transparent under illumination, rotating prisms and mirrors, mechanical choppers, ultrasonic cells, and electro-optic shutters such as Kerr or Pockels cells. The present invention contemplates the use of any such switching device.
Frequency altering device 214 is disposed in optical path 218, between reflector 216 and output coupler 212. In the preferred embodiment, frequency altering device 214 is a lithium-triborate (LBO) doubling crystal, but those skilled in the art will understand that the invention may be practiced with alternative doubling crystals, including but not limited to beta-barium-borate (BBO), potassium-titanyl-phosphate (KTP) and potassium-dihydrogen-phosphate (KDP). As the light of frequency (w) emitted by laser medium element 206 travels along optical path 218 through device 214, the frequency of a portion of the beam is doubled, creating a second wave at the doubled frequency (2w). Output coupler 212 is designed to be highly reflective to the first frequency (w) but transparent to the second (2w) frequency, and therefore passes the second (2w) wave as an output pulse along optical path 118. The intracavity disposition of device 214 is advantageous over prior art systems which positioned the doubling crystal between the amplifier pump laser and the optical amplifier. Since the reflected (w) wave makes multiple passes through device 214, the doubling efficiency is greatly increased, resulting in an increase in output power.
During operation, seed-pulses emitted by seed-pulse source 110 along optical path 116 impinge on first end surface 418 of gain medium element 402. Although the angle appears smaller in
The energy for the amplification that occurs in optical amplifier 112 is provided by amplifier pump laser 114. First beam director 414 redirects the pump light emitted from amplifier pump laser 114 along optical path 118 to impinge on first end surface 418 of gain medium element 402. The pump light passes through first end surface 418 and is absorbed by the atoms of gain medium element 402, exciting them to a metastable state. The excited atoms are induced by the oscillating seed-pulse to re-emit the absorbed light into the seed-pulse state, thereby amplifying the seed-pulse. After a number of passes between first and second reflectors 404 and 406 along optical path 426, second Pockels cell 410 ejects the amplified pulse by altering its polarization such that polarizing beam splitter 412 directs the pulse toward second beam director 416, which in turn directs the pulse along optical path 120 out of optical amplifier 112. Those skilled in the art will understand that there are many optical switching techniques that can be used to switch pulses into and out of the regenerative amplifier resonator. These include a single Pockels cell, multiple Pockels cells, a combination of a Pockels cell and a wave plate, acousto-optic cells, Faraday isolators, and a multitude of other combinations of the foregoing. The invention contemplates the use of each of these and other types of switching techniques, and is limited only by the appended claims.
While amplifier 112 of the preferred embodiment of the invention has been disclosed as a linear regenerative amplifier, it will be obvious to those skilled in the art that the invention may be practiced with other types of optical amplifiers. In fact, the invention contemplates the use of other types of amplifiers, and is limited only by the appended claims.
Reflector 508 and output coupler 510 are positioned to face each other at opposite ends of optical path 502. Reflector 508 and output coupler 510 each have a reflective surface 516 and 518 respectively which is substantially perpendicular to optical path 502. Therefore, any light traveling along optical path 502 which is incident on either reflector 508 or output coupler 510 is reflected back along optical path 502. As the light oscillates back and forth between reflector 508 and output coupler 510, the growing reflected wave induces the emission of additional light into the reflected wave state, thus amplifying the reflected wave.
Q-switch 512 is disposed in optical path 502 between reflector 508 and laser medium element 504 and selectively frustrates or permits oscillation. When oscillation is frustrated, the excited atoms are not induced to emit light, and the number of excited atoms can, therefore, be greatly increased. Then, when Q-switch 512 permits oscillation, a powerful pulse will be generated as the large number of excited atoms drop to the lower state, emitting light as they make the transition.
Frequency altering device 514 is disposed in optical path 502, between laser medium element 504 and output coupler 510. As the light of frequency (w) emitted by laser medium element 504 travels along optical path 502 through device 514, the frequency of a portion of the beam is doubled, creating a second wave at the doubled frequency (2w). Output coupler 510 is designed to be highly reflective to the first frequency (w) but transparent to the second (2w) frequency, and therefore passes the second (2w) wave as an output pulse along optical path 118.
It will be clear to one skilled in the art that optical path 520 need not be triangular. With the addition of an appropriate number of beam directors optical path 520 could be shaped as any multi-sided polygon. Further, additional laser medium elements may be disposed in one or more of the additional legs to create a more powerful multi-element laser. All such modifications are considered to be within the scope of the present invention.
The dual output is a result of the bi-directional operation of laser 114b. Light traveling along optical path 520 in a clockwise direction will be emitted along optical path 118, whereas light traveling along optical path 520 in a counter-clockwise direction will be emitted along optical path 538. Bi-directional operation is desirable when two output beams are required. When only one output beam is required, the second beam results in wasted power and uni-directional operation is preferred.
A polarized seed-pulse enters amplifier 600 via optical path 622, and is reflected along optical path 602 toward beam director 610 by the second end surface 620 of gain element 612. The seed-pulse travels counter-clockwise around optical path 602, first being reflected by beam directors 610 and 608, then passing through Pockels cell 614 which alters its polarization and, thus, it passes through polarizing beam splitter 616, then being reflected by beam directors 606 and 604, and finally passing through gain element 612.
The seed-pulse is amplified as it repeats the loop around optical path 602. The power for amplification is provided by a pump laser whose output beam enters amplifier 600 via optical path 626. The pump beam passes through first end surface 618 of gain element 612 where it is absorbed by the active atoms of the gain medium, exciting them to a metastable state. The oscillating seed-pulse induces the excited atoms to re-emit the absorbed light into the seed-pulse state, thereby amplifying the seed-pulse. After a number of amplifying passes around optical path 602, Pockels cell 614 ejects the pulse by altering its polarization such that polarizing beam splitter 616 directs the pulse along optical path 624 out of optical amplifier 600. Those skilled in the art will recognize that there many techniques, for example those described above, for switching a pulse into and out of a regenerative amplifier, and the present invention contemplates the use of any such switching technique.
Those skilled in the art will recognize that there are many variations on this type of amplifier. In its simplest form, an amplifier of this type could consist simply of a gain element and a pumping means, with the beam making only one pass (although this is not technically a multi-pass amplifier) through the element. At the other extreme, a large number of beam directors could be arranged around the gain element, greatly increasing the number of passes by the beam through the gain element.
The present invention has been disclosed with reference to a preferred embodiment and several alternate embodiments. Specific details have been set forth, such as the number of medium elements in a pump laser or amplifier, specific beam paths, and methods for switching pulses into and out of an amplifier. Those skilled in the art will understand that the invention may be practiced apart from the specific details set forth herein.
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|Patente citante||Fecha de presentación||Fecha de publicación||Solicitante||Título|
|US8670175 *||2 Sep 2010||11 Mar 2014||Lawrence Livermore National Security, Llc||Method and system for compact and efficient high energy pulsed laser amplifier|
|US8896913 *||2 Sep 2010||25 Nov 2014||Lawrence Livermore National Security, Llc||Method and system for compact, multi-pass pulsed laser amplifier|
|US20110058249 *||10 Mar 2011||Lawrence Livermore National Security, Llc||Method and system for compact and efficient high energy pulsed laser amplifier|
|US20140368901 *||2 Sep 2010||18 Dic 2014||Lawrence Livermore National Security, Llc||Method and system for compact, multi-pass pulsed laser amplifier|
|Clasificación de EE.UU.||359/345, 372/72, 359/348|
|Clasificación internacional||H01S3/00, H01S3/23, H01S3/0941, H01S3/094|
|Clasificación cooperativa||H01S3/094038, H01S3/11, H01S3/094084, H01S3/2325, H01S3/235, H01S3/09408, H01S3/083, H01S3/0941, H01S3/061, H01S3/0625, H01S3/109|
|Clasificación europea||H01S3/23A2R, H01S3/094S, H01S3/0941|