Del Mar Photonics - Mavericks Cr:Forsterite lasers
Review by Thomas M Spinka (pdf) ECE 455 12/13/2004
Chromium-Doped Forsterite Lasers
The discovery of the solid-state ruby laser by Theodore Maiman in 1960 opened the door
to the now-flourishing field of laser research9. The chromium-doped sapphire crystal that forms
the gain medium for the ruby laser provided a model for the discovery of the broadly tunable
solid-state laser in alexandrite in 1979. The discovery of the emerald laser in the early 1980s led
to a flurry of research focused on finding new laser crystals and new ions that would lase in
commonly-used host crystals. These research efforts led to the discoveries of numerous laser
systems, such as Cr:Nd:GSGG, Co:MgF2, Cr:ZnWO4, and many others. In early 1988, Petričević
et. al. first reported lasing in chromium-doped forsterite (Cr:Mg2SiO4, hereafter Cr:forsterite)11.
This fascinating laser system has tremendous potential for applications in near infrared imaging,
communications, and semiconductor inspection.
In this paper, I will first review the forsterite crystal structure, properties and growth
processes, and then move into the early history of the laser system, covering the discovery of the
Cr:forsterite laser and the first demonstration of continuous-wave and mode-locked operation, as
well as some important advances in Cr:forsterite laser output power and efficiency. I will then
conduct a more in-depth study of lasing in continuous-wave (cw) mode, reviewing the laser
system of Petričevićet. al.11, looking at the study done by Carrig et. al. in 1993, which tested
several pump lasers5, touching on the study done by Qian et. al. in 1997 of diode pumping14,
doing a short overview of the high-power record for cw Cr:forsterite lasers by Zhavaronkovet.
al.23, and concluding the cw section by investigating thermal effects on the laser output and ways
that these effects can be minimized. In the following section, I will present an in-depth study of
mode-locked operation of Cr:forsterite lasers by investigating several papers presented starting in
1991. This section will also proceed chronologically, including active mode-locking,
synchronous pumping, additive-pulse mode-locking, and mode-locking with Semiconductor
Saturable-Absorber Mirrors. I will close the paper by reviewing some applications that take
advantage of some of the unique characteristics of Cr:forsterite lasers, including biological
imaging, remote sensing, semiconductor inspection, and optical communications.
2. Forsterite Crystal Growth and Properties
Forsterite is a member of the olivine family of crystals24. Its empirical formula is
Mg2SiO4, with the magnesium atoms forming a single bond with two oxygen atoms each of the
silicate (SiO4) tetrahedron. In its crystalline form, forsterite forms an orthorhombic dipyramidal
structure of the space groupPbnm. In chromium-doped forsterite, the chromium ions (both Cr3+
and Cr4+ are generally present) replace the Mg2+ ions. Forsterite and its iron counterpart, fayalite
(Fe2SiO4) almost always occur together in nature, so lasing crystals must be fabricated.
Synthetic forsterite can be grown from a seed crystal using the Czochralski method. This
process for growing crystals is mainly used to produce high-quality low-impurity semiconductor
wafers, but can be adapted to grow many types of laser crystals as well. Growing the laser crystal
for the Cr:forsterite laser involves dipping a small forsterite seed crystal into a vat of liquefied
magnesium and silicate with a small doping concentration of chromium and slowly removing the
crystal from the vat while precisely controlling the temperature, pressure and rotation speed of
the pulled crystal and its surroundings to form a very pure and low-impurity crystalline structure.
Typical doping concentrations are on the order of 1018-1019 ions/cm3, and the crystals are
typically cut to precise dimensions on the order of a few cm long and with a physical crosssection
of around 25 mm2 which is generally coated with a broadband anti-reflection coating to
reduce photon loss at the boundaries of the crystal during lasing.
On March 28, 1988, Vladimir Petričević and his colleagues first reported lasing in a
chromium-doped forsterite crystal11. In this historical article, Petričević et. al. laid the
groundwork for all of the Cr:forsterite research to come. They provide an absorption spectrum
and a fluorescence spectrum from 300 nm to 1500 nm, and report lasing at 1235 nm with a
bandwidth of about 22 nm. However, due to the repetition rate of the Nd:YAG pump laser they
used, the lasing they achieved was not true cw, but gain-switched lasing. However, soon
thereafter, the same research group achieved true cw lasing in the Cr:forsterite at room
temperature using a cw Nd:YAG pump laser12. Having obtained a new crystal, they were able to
increase the tunable range of the Cr:forsterite laser to 1167-1345 nm with a full-width at halfmax
(FWHM) of 12 nm. They also estimated the effective emission cross section to be 1.1×10-19
Two years later, A. Seas and coworkers reported the first mode-locked operation of the
Cr:forsterite laser, producing pulses of 260 ps and 31 ps with different mode-locking tactics15.
These pulse-lengths were not spectacularly short, but the purpose of this first demonstration of
mode-locking was not to break any pulse-length records. It was merely a demonstration that
mode-locking in a Cr:forsterite laser is possible and effective. In fact, only a year later,
Sennarogluet. al. published their results on additive-pulse mode-locking (APM)16. With this
technique, they narrowed the width of the pulse to 150 fs. By cryogenically cooling the
Cr:forsterite laser, they were able to achieve average output powers of up to 2.8 W. Only months
later, near the beginning of 1993, the length of the shortest pulse demonstrated on a Cr:forsterite
laser dropped again, this time by a factor of 6. Yanovskyet. al. produced pulses of as short as 25
fs using self-mode-locking21.
Back in the cw realm, Carriget. al. did an extensive study on the most effective pump
lasers5, publishing their results in 1993. They tested lasing in Cr:forsterite with a krypton ion,
Ti:sapphire and Nd:YAG laser as pumps, and showed that lasing was possible for all three pump
sources. The natural next step towards making the solid-state Cr:forsterite laser an all-solid-state
system was to show that diode pumping is effective, which is exactly what Qianet. al. did in
199714. One obvious disadvantage to Cr:forsterite is its low thermal conductivity, which starts
becoming an issue as the pump power increases to more than a few watts. This effect came
under study in a paper by Zhaoronkovet. al. published in 199723, which addressed the thermal
loading theoretically. They also obviously applied the theory in obtaining the highest roomtemperature
cw lasing in Cr:forsterite to date.
As the improvements to the Cr:forsterite laser system became more and more pronounced
through the 10 years after its initial discovery, applications of the laser system became
increasingly attractive. In 2000, Abrahamet. al. published a paper on real-time two-dimensional
biological imaging using a mode-locked Cr:forsterite laser at 1220 nm1, and in early 2002, an
extension of this group improved this application significantly to be competitive with a more
standard technique of optical coherence tomography (OCT)2. But the real driver to application
research will probably be the release, on November 9, 2004, of a complete, all-solid-state
commercially available Cr:forsterite laser, from Del Mar Ventures25. With a commercially
available complete laser system that provides 2 nJ pulses on the order of 65 fs long, scientists
will be able to focus on applications. Del Mar Ventures also offers an amplification system
which can produce similar length pulses with a peak power of 1 –2 TW. Possible applications of
these extremely high power systems include condensed matter imaging and micromachining.
4. Continuous-Wave Operation
To understand the Cr:forsterite laser more fully, it is instructive to consider specific
systems in more detail than we have so far. We will first examine the laser system employed by
Petričevićet. al. as they first demonstrated lasing in Cr:forsterite11. The experimental setup for
this demonstration is, in fact, quite simple. The crystal, a 9 mm × 9 mm × 4.5 mm parallelepiped
grown by Electronic Materials Research Laboratory of the Mitsui Mining and Smelting Co., Ltd.,
acts as the gain medium for the system. It is placed at the center of a stable resonator cavity
formed by two spherical mirrors of radius 30 cm placed 20 cm apart. The high-reflectivity mirror
was dielectric-coated to be 99.9% reflecting in the 1150 – 1250 nm range, while the output
coupler was 98% reflective over this range. Both mirrors transmit the 532 nm pump wavelength.
The laser system was pumped by a frequency-doubled Q-switched Nd:YAG laser operating at a
10 Hz repetition rate, providing pumping at 532 nm. The FWHM of the pump pulses was 10 ns
and the observed threshold pump energy was 2.2 mJ. As the pump pulse energy increased
beyond the threshold value, a single output pulse from the Cr:forsterite crystal was observed.
The pulse energy increased smoothly with the pump pulse energy beyond the threshold value.
Interestingly, the time delay between the pump pulse and the output pulse decreased with
increasing pulse power. This is easily explained by noting that the cavity must have a very low
single-pass gain, which means that it takes many round-trips through the cavity to build up the
laser intensity to the lasing threshold level. This explanation is supported by noting that lasing
was extremely sensitive to even a slight cavity misalignment or the insertion of a glass plate into
the cavity, which introduces about an 8% loss. The measured slope efficiency is rather low, at
1.4%, which also supports the hypothesis of a high-loss cavity.
As the next step beyond the pulsed operation of the laser demonstrated in their 1988
article, Petričević and his research group attempted and attained true cw lasing with the
Cr:forsterite laser12. As they pointed out in their article, cw operation is not assured based solely
on obtaining pulsed operation, as evidenced by the Nd:Glass laser. The setup for this experiment
was significantly different than that of the discovery paper. A new Cr:forsterite crystal (6 mm ×
6 mm × 30 mm, Cr concentration 2.8×1018/cm3) was placed at the center of a nearly concentric
laser cavity with spherical mirrors of radius 5 cm. The crystal was sandwiched between two
copper plates to facilitate heat dissipation. The mirrors were coated to be mostly transmissive to
the pump wavelength of 1064 nm, while maintaining high reflectivity for the Cr:forsterite lasing
region. The output coupler for this experiment was 99% reflective, while the input mirror was
99.9% reflective over the entire lasing region from 1200 – 1400 nm. The pump was a cwoperated
Nd:YAG, chopped to a duty cycle of 10%. When the pump laser was unchopped, the
Cr:forsterite laser operated at 40% reduced output power due to thermal effects. The lasing
threshold occurred at 1.25 W of input power, and the measured slope efficiency increased
dramatically to 6.8%. In this paper, Petričević estimates the stimulated emission cross section
to be 1.1×10-19 cm2. However, the emission cross section obtained from the emission lifetime
and line shape is 3.3×10-19 cm2, which is a significant difference from the observed value. This
difference is explained by realizing that there must be other small loss mechanisms at work.
Vehicles for these losses include excited-state absorption and nonradiative relaxation, which
implies that the fluorescence lifetime is not a good approximation for the radiative lifetime used
to calculate the theoretical emission cross section. They also quote the lasing wavelength and
FWHM at 1244 nm and 12 nm, respectively.
In the next several years, great strides were made in optimizing the Cr:forsterite laser.
Once again, Petričević’s group made significant contributions in optimizing the slope efficiency
by testing multiple output couplers13. They achieved a massive increase in efficiency, raising it to
38%, which is one of the highest of any tunable solid-state laser system to that time. Another
research group, Carrig and Pollock, demonstrated much higher output power at cryogenic
temperatures than had been described in previous papers4. They obtained 1.8 W of output power
at 77 K, tunable from 1200 – 1320 nm, fully 10 times higher than described in several previous
papers. However, Carrig and Pollock mention that the output power decreases to about 35% of
the cryogenic power level when the system is run at room temperature, which is much closer to
that obtained previously.
To that point, the only pump laser used was a Nd:YAG laser. However, in 1993, Carrig
and Pollock did a comprehensive study of three pump lasers for the Cr:forsterite laser system,
including the Krypton Ion laser, the Ti:sapphire laser and the Nd:YAG laser5. Starting with the
Nd:YAG laser at 1064 nm and 77 K, Carrig and Pollock obtained 2.8 W of cw power from the
Cr:forsterite laser with a 13% output coupler. At this wavelength about 78% of the incident
pump power was absorbed by the crystal. It would not have been unlikely to begin seeing
saturation effects at these power levels, but no such output power leveling was observed for
pump powers up to 12 W. Less input power was available from the other two pump lasers, and
hence, the output power of the Cr:forsterite laser was also significantly lower than that for the
Nd:YAG pump laser. For 4.4 W of incident power at around 750 nm from the Ti:sapphire laser,
the output power was 0.64 W with a 10% output coupler, and for 4.4 W of incident power from a
krypton ion laser at any of its dominant output wavelengths (676 nm, 647 nm, and others), the
Cr:forsterite laser had an output power of 0.32 W with a 7% transmissive output coupler. As the
temperature of operation was raised from 77 K to room temperature, thermal effects began to
dominate the output power of the Cr:forsterite laser. For a Ti:sapphire pump, Carrig and Pollock
could not obtain lasing at powers greater than 220 to 270 K, dependent on the pump wavelength
and pump power. Similarly, they could not obtain Cr:forsterite lasing above 225 K for more than
6 – 7 seconds, after which the initial 40 mW of output power faded to zero. One of the major
goals for this investigation was to determine the feasibility of diode-pumping. The conclusion
they drew was that diode pumping is feasible, but some modifications to the chromium doping
concentration of the laser crystal would be necessary, and the pumping may be inefficient due to
weak absorption at diode-accessible wavelengths.
Several years later, in 1997, a group from Cornell University demonstrated a diodepumped
Cr:forsterite laser. Qianet. al. describe a Cr:forsterite laser system pumped by 4
AlGaInP semiconductor diode lasers which each emit about 400 mW of output power at around
680 nm14. This material and wavelength range was chosen because Cr:forsterite has a strong
absorption band that peaks at 740 nm that exhibits absorbance of about 6 times that at the
wavelength of a Nd:YAG pump at 1064 nm. Since there were no commercially available
semiconductor diode lasers operating in this wavelength range, AlGaInP was chosen because it
lases at 680 nm, where the absorbance is still 3 times that at 1064 nm. The maximum total
power available at the forsterite crystal was about 1.2 W, and up to 65% of this was absorbed by
the crystal. Because of the relatively small amount of available pump power, using an output
coupler with a transmission coefficient of more than 2% dropped the gain in the laser cavity
below the threshold value. However, lasing was achieved for both a 1% and 2% output coupler,
exhibiting 1% and 2% efficiency, respectively. These extremely low efficiencies resulted in a
maximum output power of the Cr:forsterite laser of only 5 mW. However, as was the goal of this
project, Qianet. al. successfully demonstrated that diode-pumping of the Cr:forsterite laser was
possible. Later in 1997, Zhavoronkovet. al. published a brilliant paper detailing a method to
significantly increase the room temperature cw output power of the Cr:forsterite laser23. In
demonstrating this method, they achieved 1.1 W of unchopped cw output power at room
temperature with a slope efficiency of 26%. By making a few useful assumptions, Zhavoronkov
and his coworkers were able to model the distribution of thermal energy in the Cr:forsterite
crystal, and optimize the laser cavity to match the thermal lensing properties of the crystal as a
function of pump power. The assumptions they made in order to develop this theory are: 1) that
heat flow in the laser crystal is radial, which is a reasonable assumption if the pump laser beam is
centered on the crystal. 2) that the thermal conductivity of the material, the absorption
coefficient at the pump wavelength and the amount of absorbed pump power per unit volume of
material that leads to heating of the rod are all constants over the temperature and pump power
ranges considered. 3) that the spatial intensity profile of the pump beam is a cylindrically
symmetric Gaussian TEM00 mode. Making these assumptions and using several standard laser
equations and the ABCD matrix formalism, they were able to derive a method for determining
the optimal asymmetrical location of the laser crystal within the cavity. The reason that the
optimal position is not the center of the cavity is that, due to the distribution of the absorbed heat
energy in the forsterite crystal, the change in material index of refraction as a function of
temperature acts as a focusing lens.
By 1998, thermal loading in the cw Cr:forsterite laser system was a topic of high interest.
Alphan Sennaroglu made significant contributions in several papers published in February and
March of 1998 and November of 200117,18,19. His 1998 papers focused on improving the
efficiency via improvements to the laser crystal properties, radiative cooling, and chopping of the
pump laser. His 2001 publication focused not only on Cr:forsterite lasers, but on Cr4+-doped
solid state lasers in general, of which Cr:forsterite is one. It presents a highly detailed theoretical
model of power performance of solid-state lasers subject to lifetime thermal loading. Another
paper that was published in November of 2001 also focused on issue of thermal loading. Ivanov
et. al. addressed the temperature dependence of the fluorescence lifetime of the upper laser state7,
which was shown to be a large factor leading to the decrease in output power of thermally
constrained Cr:forsterite lasers. In fact, thermal effects in the laser crystal are still a major focus
of current research today.
5. Mode-Locked Operation
Laser mode-locking is a group of techniques for producing extremely short pulses from a
laser. Mode-locking is divided into two major categories: active mode-locking and passive
mode-locking. Short pulses are useful in many application, including but not limited to optical
coherence tomography (OCT) for biomedical imaging, high-speed communications, remote
sensing applications, and others. The first demonstration of short pulses using a Cr:forsterite
laser occurred in 1991 in a paper by Seaset. al.15 Using the Ti:sapphire laser as a model for the
Cr:forsterite due to the similarities between them, they achieve synchronous pumping modelocking
and active mode-locking. Synchronous pumping is the simplest way to achieve modelocking
in a laser system. In this technique, the active gain medium of the driven laser is
modulated at a frequency that equals the round-trip time of the active laser cavity resonator as
well as the frequency of the mode-locked pump source. In this case, the pump laser was a cw
mode-locked Nd:YAG laser oscillating in a 1.8 m cavity, which corresponds to an 83 MHz
repetition rate. When the Cr:forsterite laser cavity was length-matched to the Nd:YAG laser
cavity to within ±5 μm, the Cr:forsterite output pulse length was less than 300 ps. The minimum
pulse length of 260 ps was obtained for an exactly equal cavity size, while the pulse length was
shown to decrease slightly for a very slight mismatch in cavity length of 1 μm. The output
wavelength in this configuration is continuously tunable from 1195 – 1295 nm, limited by the
spectral characteristics of the mirrors used in the experiment. The maximum output power
observed for synchronous pumping was 175 mW at 1232 nm for 2.4 W of absorbed pump power,
which corresponds to a slope efficiency of 12.5% with a threshold of 0.7 W of absorbed pump
power. The other technique for mode-locking the Cr:forsterite laser demonstrated in this paper
was acousto-optic modulation, which falls into the active mode-locking category. The authors
placed a Brewster acousto-optic modulator and mode-locker driver from the Coherent Laser
Products Group of Coherent, Inc. into the Cr:forsterite laser cavity near the output coupler. The
pump laser was operated in cw mode (no mode-locking). By driving the modulator at ~76 MHz
and adjusting the cavity length to ~1.97m (the round-trip distance for the light to travel in this
amount of time), the pulse width can be decreased to 50 ps. With the cavity slightly misaligned,
shorter pulses were observed, but with the addition of satellite pulses as well. The pulse width
for the shortest observed pulses was approximately 20 ps. With this cavity configuration, the
output was tunable from 1204 – 1277 nm, and produced 120 mW at 1227 nm for an absorbed
pump power of 2.4 W. This represents a slope efficiency of 9.1% with a threshold of 0.9 W of
absorbed pump power.
In 1992, another standard mode-locking technique was demonstrated by Sennarogluet.
al.16 To that time, additive-pulse mode-locking (APM) had been demonstrated in Ti:sapphire,
Nd:YAG, Nd:glass, Nd:YLF and other laser systems. APM is generally established by sending
part of the laser output beam into an optical fiber. An intensity-dependent mirror returns the
output to the cavity, but with slight modifications. The leading edge of the pulse is redshifted,
while the trailing edge is blueshifted. If the cavity lengths are adjusted properly, the pulse is
reinjected into the laser cavity such that the leading edge of the pulse adds in phase with the
pulse propagating in the cavity, and the trailing edge destructively interferes, effectively
decreasing the intensity of the pulse. As the pulse propagates in the cavity, this effect continues
to shorten the pulse until the pulse-width is limited by the bandwidth of the gain medium20.
Sennaroglu and his research team used this technique to obtain pulses 2 orders of magnitude
shorter than the previous shortest pulse. They demonstrated a system that gave a stable train of
150 fs pulses with an average usable power of up to 63 mW at a repetition rate of 82 MHz. This
corresponds to an instantaneous peak pulse power of about 5 kW. In this paper, they
demonstrated the feasibility of producing femtosecond pulses with the Cr:forsterite laser in a
convincing fashion. This opened the door to applications such as biological imaging via OCT
and high-speed optical communications relays.
Another significant advance in the mode-locking field was the use of Semiconductor
Saturable Absorber Mirrors (SESAMs). This type of mode-locking is sometimes also called
colliding pulse mode-locking (CPM). The simplified version of how CPM produces short pulses
is that two electromagnetic waves propagating in opposite directions interfere with each other
within the saturable absorber. Where the two waves constructively interfere, the saturable
absorber can saturate, producing a standing wave in the absorber. This, in turn, narrows,
stabilizes and shortens the incident laser pulse, which can the be coupled to the output. Is a
SESAM, the saturable absorber is constructed in the same device as the semiconductor mirror
such that as the wave propagates through the saturable absorber and is reflected from the mirror,
the returning beam interferes in the absorber. In 1997, Zhanget. al. published the first evidence
of using SESAMs with a Cr:forsterite laser to produce femtosecond pulses22. Operated in cw
mode, the Cr:forsterite crystal in the laser cavity had its peak intensity at 1290 nm, so Zhang and
his colleagues attempted to fabricate a semiconductor mirror/quantum well (saturable absorber)
combination at this wavelength. After determining that the absorption edge of an In0.38Ga0.62As
quantum well occurred around 1290 nm, they fabricated the semiconductor device using
molecular beam epitaxy. By using this device as one of the laser cavity mirrors, Zhang obtained
a pulse width of 36 fs with a bandwidth of 50 nm at 1295 nm. The maximum average output
power with a 2% transmission output coupler was 150 mW. The pump laser for this setup was a
diode-pumped Nd:YVO4 laser operated at 1.06 μm.
Further research into mode-locking and optimization of existing techniques beyond 1997
has resulted in generation of pulses as short as 14 fs (Chudobaet. al., 20016), which is only a
factor of 3 longer than the shortest laser pulse ever created. Also, 54 fs pulses with a peak power
of 1 GW have been demonstrated by stretching the pulse, amplifying it, and then compressing the
pulse again (Jonusauskaset. al., 19988). Finally, on November 9, 2004, Del Mar Ventures
released a commercially available complete all-solid-state mode-locked Cr:forsterite laser
system25. This system has a center wavelength of 1250 nm (tunable from 1230 – 1270 nm),
produces pulses of about 60 fs and provides an average output power of 280 mW at a repetition
rate from 76 – 120 MHz. It runs in the TEM00 mode and has a beam divergence angle of < 2
mrad. A complimentary system, the Jaws Terawatt System, runs at a repetition rate of 10 Hz and
produces pulses 60 – 80 fs long with peak output powers of 1 – 2 TW. The applications of this
type of system are rapidly expanding and developing.
6. Current Research and Applications
Current research is taking place mostly in two main areas. The goal of the first is to
reduce the heating effects in the Cr:forsterite laser crystal when it is operated in cw mode. This
is important for increasing the possible output power of this laser system at room temperature.
The second main research topic is increasing the efficiency and attainable output power for
mode-locked systems, as well as increasing the repetition rate for today’s highest-power
Cr:forsterite lasers. One highly studied aspect of this is reducing or compensating for the
dispersion effects of the laser crystal. However, perhaps the most research relating to
Cr:forsterite lasers is not into the laser system itself, but in applications of these lasers.
In late 1996, Boumaet. al. published a proof-of-principle study that applied a Kerr-Lens
mode-locked Cr:forsterite laser system to optical coherence tomography3. Extremely short pulses
are preferred over longer pulses because the available bandwidth of shorter pulses is far superior
to that of long pulses. Also, Cr:forsterite is preferred over other laser systems because it lases at
around 1.3 μm, which allows for much deeper penetration into a biological sample than does
Ti:sapphire at 800 nm and other lasers systems at shorter or significantly longer wavelengths.
The Ti:sapphire laser is limited by scattering while laser systems beyond 2 μm are quickly
absorbed by water. Cr:forsterite sits neatly in the middle, and allows for the optimal balance
between scattering and absorption. Abrahamet. al. followed up with this idea in 2000 with the
modification that instead of collecting the information one pixel at a time, the traditional OCT
method, and obtaining resolution limited by the laser spot size, they increased the spot size of the
laser beam and imaged with a 640 × 480 element CCD camera at speeds up to 30 frames/sec1.
This video-speed image acquisition, even for significantly lower resolution could be invaluable
in large-scale and real-time observations of biological samples. Continuing the trend, Bordenave
et. al. improved upon the 2000 results and actually reconstructed a 3-dimensional section of a
mouse ear using a wide-field mode-locked Cr:forsterite OCT system in 20022. Continued
research in this area is almost certain to bring major advances in resolution, speed and dynamic
Tremendous numbers of other possible applications exist. Mülleret. al. demonstrated
third-harmonic-generation microscopy in 199810. The operational wavelength of Cr:forsterite lies
near or at 1276 nm, a wavelength of zero material dispersion, allowing for the maximum
information capacity of a fiber to be exploited. Interestingly, the extremely short pulses
demonstrated in Cr:forsterite present possibilities for very high data transmission rates, as well.
The wavelength of operation of the Cr:forsterite laser also allows for eye-safe ranging and small
band-gap semiconductor inspection. One of the most-promising applications is micromachining.
Extremely short (tens to hundreds of fs) high-power laser pulses transfer much of their energy to
only a few particles, which immediately makes the phase transition to a high-temperature plasma
without significantly disturbing the surrounding particles. The plasma material is then quickly
ejected from the area, leaving very little residue. This is a significant improvement over highpower
ns pulses, which tend to leave slag along the cut edge and, depending on the material
being cut, can deposit detrimental amounts of heat in the material which can cause cracking or
other unfavorable thermal effects. This technique would be useful from dentist drills to
machining finer holes in automobile fuel injectors resulting in cleaner combustion and better fuel
economy. Other possible applications include studying chemical reactions as they occur. The
extremely rapid nature of chemical reactions has thus far defeated any attempts to study them in
depth as they are occurring. However, with the extremely short pulses dipping to only a few
femtoseconds, characterization of chemical reactions may be within reach. It is certain that the
applications for Cr:forsterite and other maturing laser systems are only beginning to be realized.
The future holds great promise for laser applications in our world and beyond.
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25. http://www.dmphotonics.com/mavericks brochure web.pdf