SOLID-STATE LASERS: Telecom technology enters competition to supplant argon-ion lasers

Technology developed during the telecom boom of a few years ago is currently turning plenty of heads in the commercial laser markets with the rapidly expanding use of industrial fiber lasers.

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Technology developed during the telecom boom of a few years ago is currently turning plenty of heads in the commercial laser markets with the rapidly expanding use of industrial fiber lasers. It appears, however, that the fiber laser is not the only case in which telecom-based technology is challenging traditional laser-system design for commercial applications. For instance, at Photonics West this January, JDSU (San Jose, CA) plans to enter the market with a 488 nm diode-pumped solid-state laser in a fiber-based architecture targeted at markets for biotech instrumentation, digital printing, and semiconductor manufacturing, and which resembles an erbium-doped-fiber-amplifier (EDFA) module.

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The idea of a compact 488 nm solid-state contender aiming for a piece of the market domain held by argon-ion lasers is not new. Laser-industry heavyweights Coherent (Santa Clara, CA) and Newport (Irvine, CA) have already entered that market with optically pumped semiconductor lasers (see www.Laser Focus World.com/articles/ Schulze, Dec. 2006) and frequency-doubled external-cavity semiconductor lasers (see www.laserfocusworld.com/articles/276768). JDSU is entering this fray with an emitter designed like an EDFA. A 976 nm diode is coupled through single-mode fiber, first to a fiber-Bragg-grating (FBG) gain element, then into a periodically poled waveguide for frequency conversion, and finally into optics for beam shaping and stabilization. The laser module will also have an optional fiber-coupled output port.

“The point is to design and build lasers in a totally different way, based on telecom processes and practices-rather than the custom, highly skilled approach of traditional laser manufacture-to take advantages of economies of scale,” says Len Mirabella, director of marketing for commercial lasers at JDSU. Mirabella adds that the inherently scalable technology platform will also enable extension of this approach to other wavelengths for different industries and different markets.

Hassaun A. Jones-Bey

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