Passive <i>Q</i> switching is a preferable choice for switching the <i>Q</i> factor of a solar-pumped laser because it requires neither a driver nor an electrical power supply. The superior thermal characteristics and durability of Cr<sup>4+</sup>:YAG single crystals as passive <i>Q</i> switches for lamp and diode-pumped high-power lasers has been demonstrated. Here we report on an average power of 37 W and a switching efficiency of 80% obtained by use of a solar-pumped Nd:YAG laser <i>Q</i> switched by a Cr<sup>4+</sup>:YAG saturable absorber. Concentration of the pumping solar energy on the laser crystal was obtained with a three-stage concentrator, composed of 12 heliostats, a three-dimensional compound parabolic concentrator (CPC) and a two-dimensional CPC. The water-cooled passive <i>Q</i> switch also served as the laser rear mirror. Repetition rates of as much as 50 kHz, at pulse durations between 190 and 310 ns (FWHM) were achieved. From the experimental results, the saturated single-pass power absorption of the Cr<sup>4+</sup>:YAG device was estimated as 3 ∓ 1%.
© 2000 Optical Society of America
(140.3530) Lasers and laser optics : Lasers, neodymium
(140.3540) Lasers and laser optics : Lasers, Q-switched
(140.5560) Lasers and laser optics : Pumping
(220.1770) Optical design and fabrication : Concentrators
Mordechai Lando, Yehoshua Shimony, Yoram Noter, Roth M. J. Benmair, and Amnon Yogev, "Passive Q Switching of a Solar-Pumped Nd:YAG Laser," Appl. Opt. 39, 1962-1965 (2000)