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Optics Express

Optics Express

  • Editor: Michael Duncan
  • Vol. 10, Iss. 13 — Jul. 1, 2002
  • pp: 550–555
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Active transverse mode control and optimisation of an all-solid-state laser using an intracavity adaptive-optic mirror

Walter Lubeigt, Gareth Valentine, John Girkin, Erwin Bente, and David Burns  »View Author Affiliations


Optics Express, Vol. 10, Issue 13, pp. 550-555 (2002)
http://dx.doi.org/10.1364/OE.10.000550


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Abstract

A 37 element adaptive optic mirror has been used intracavity to control the oscillation mode profile of a diode-laser pumped Nd:YVO4 laser. Mode and power optimisation are demonstrated by closed loop automatic optimisation of the deformable mirror.

© 2002 Optical Society of America

1. Introduction

In this paper we investigate the potential for intracavity aberration control using an electronically addressable deformable membrane mirror. The particular problem addressed is that of transverse mode control using a computer controlled feedback scheme to enable automatic, or self-optimisation of the laser. Deformable membrane mirrors have recently been developed for use in astronomical and medical imaging [6

6. R. Tyson, Principles of Adaptive Optics, 2nd edition, (Academic Press, 1998).

]. The electronic nature of the control of the mirror curvature with a suitable mode-quality detector, gives unique possibilities for real-time alignment and optimisation when accompanied by suitable computer controlled feedback.

2. Micro-machined deformable mirror

The 15mm diameter, OKOTECH [7

7. Flexible Optical B.V., PO Box 581, 2600 AN, Delft, the Netherlands, www.okotech.com

] deformable membrane mirror, as shown in figure 1, comprised 37 hexagonal actuators arranged in a hexagonal pattern [8

8. G. Vdovin G, P.M. Sarro, and S. Middelhoek, “Technology and applications of micro-machined adaptive mirrors,” J. Micromech. Microeng. 9, R8–R19 (1999). [CrossRef]

]. An additional 12 layer dielectric mirror coating was deposited onto the aluminium coated silicon nitride membrane to provide high reflectivity and low absorption at 1064nm. The maximum specified surface deflection range was 4μm at 290V, however, in these experiments the maximum actuator voltage activated was intentionally limited to 200V. Similar mirrors have been demonstrated at optical power densities of 2.6kW/cm2 (intracavity) and 11kW/cm2 (extracavity) without damage [9

9. G. Vdovin and V. Kiyko, “Intracavity control of a 200-W continuous-wave Nd:YAG laser by a micro-machined deformable mirror,” Opt. Lett. 26, 798–800 (2001). [CrossRef]

].

The actuators could be individually addressed via a personal computer using a homemade software package with a graphic user interface using LabWindows/CVI (National Instruments Ltd). The output from the PC was from two 20 channel 8-bit DAC converters. Each channel was then amplified using a multi-channel voltage amplifier before being applied to the individual electrostatic transducers of the Adaptive-Optic mirror. It is worth noting that the electrostatic transducers can only ‘pull’ the membrane surface from its zero-bias state. The mirror therefore may require a pre-bias to meet the demands of some applications. The AO mirror was held in a protective mount with a 1064nm anti reflection coated front window in order to minimise any vibration, draught or deposition of dust on the membrane.

Figure 1. The deformable membrane mirror (LHS) and, the mirror housing used in these experiments (RHS). Note: that an anti-reflection coated window is used to environmentally shield the fragile mirror surface and reduce the effects of air currents.

3. Experimental laser cavity set-up

The gain medium was a 2mm thick HR-AR coated Nd:YVO4 crystal and was pumped using a fibre coupled diode emitting at 808nm. The pump power could be adjusted from 0 to 10W. A 98% reflective mirror was initially used as the output coupler (M1) giving 120mW output power when optimized with the AO mirror at 6W pump power. It should be noted that the laser was configured specifically to demonstrate automated mode control and not to optimise the power transfer efficiency; hence no attempt was made to maximise the overlap between the pump mode and the laser mode.

Figure 2. (a) Schematic of the Nd:YVO4 laser cavity arrangement and diagnostics used to perform active transverse mode control. (b) Beam radius on the AO mirror as a function of the radius of curvature of the AO mirror.

4. Optimisation methods

4.1 Physical aperture

A manual optimisation routine was sufficient to demonstrate the effectiveness of the AO mirror for laser mode control, however, the optimisation procedure was somewhat time consuming and subjective. So in order to demonstrate automatic control of the laser, two arrangements were investigated. In the first, the output from the laser was spatially filtered by being apertured through a 100μm pinhole onto a silicon photodiode. The control program was then configured to maximise the power detected by the photodiode; in this way the feedback loop substantially favoured oscillation on a TEM00 mode. A schematic of the automatic closed loop optimisation scheme is depicted in figure 3.

Figure 3. Schematic of the closed loop feedback network used for the self-optimising laser.

4.2 Software aperture

Figure 4. Graphic User Interface for manual and automatic laser optimisation. The panel on the left displays a zoomed area of the larger camera image on the main screen, and enables the control signal for the optimisation loop to be configured.

4.3 Optimisation algorithm

The optimisation scheme described here has been demonstrated to work well for this simple laser arrangement. The optimisation procedure used was based on a modification of a two stage ‘hill-climbing’ algorithm. [A more comprehensive generic algorithm will be incorporated in future work to ensure that the global maximum of the control parameter is obtained.]

The time taken for the whole optimisation procedure was variable, however, the results presented below were obtained for N=M=2, and took about 4 minutes to complete. The main limitation in the speed of the optimisation was the graphics capability of the PC used; however the time could be reduced to ~50 seconds using a PC with improved graphics capability. By eliminating the graphics update further speed improvements could be introduced. However, as we are proposing this technique for aberration control of much higher power lasers, the thermal lag of the mode quality as the mirror is transformed will seriously limit the optimisation time.

This optimisation routine gives one solution, which is a local maximum of the control parameter; however the hill-climbing algorithm cannot guarantee that the solution is a global maximum. Stochastic algorithms such as Genetic [10

10. K.F. Man, Genetic Algorithms: concepts and designs, (Springer Series, 1999). [CrossRef]

] or Simulated Annealing [11

11. S. Kirkpatrick, C.D. Gelatt Jr., and M.P. Vecchi, “Optimization by simulated annealing,” Science 220 (4598), 671–680 (1983). [CrossRef] [PubMed]

] are required to ensure the global maximum is returned.

5. Determination of the shape of the AO mirror in the laser cavity

Although the shape of the AO mirror can be determined from computer simulations, we examined the actual deformation present as the mirror was operating within the Nd:YVO4 cavity. A Michelson interferometer was constructed which incorporated the AO mirror as a common element in both the laser cavity and the interferometer. The final configuration, illustrated in figure 5, utilised a HeNe laser operating at 633nm as the illumination source and a CCD camera as a detector. The AO mirror surface was referenced to a λ/20 zerodur mirror, the other ‘flatness critical’ components were all known to be λ/5 or better over the used aperture.

Figure 5. Michelson interferometer arrangement.

6. Results

6.1 Interferometer measurements

With zero bias applied to all 37 actuators, the AO mirror surface was found to be flat to within λ/2 over the entire illuminated aperture (see fig. 6a). On application of known voltages, the interference pattern (see fig. 6b) obtained from theoretical electrostatic calculations were in excellent agreement with the actual shape recorded. Also, it was evident that on blocking the Nd:YVO4 laser, the fringe pattern of the AO mirror did not alter, indicating that negligible changes in the mirror occurred due to the circulating power within the laser cavity. The AO mirror surface was also monitored during the optimisation sequence in order to investigate any possible delay between the mirror shape changing and the output laser mode altering. Such a delay may be expected due to the changing thermal load within the laser rod and this would have implications for the software control programming and also for the ‘settling time’ of the optimisation sequence.

Figure 6. Interference patterns recorded form the Michelson interferometer for (a) all the actuators were set at 0V, and (b) all actuators set to 200V.

6.2 Optimisation of transverse mode profile

The initial optimisation routine was examined with a pump power of 6W incident on the Nd:YVO4 rod. Before optimisation, the output profile was determined to be TEM01. Using a 100μm pinhole as the mode quality detector the evolution of the output was recorded and is reviewed in figure 7. Similar results were obtained using the CCD-based optimisation routine. Initially the output power from the laser was ~20mW. During the optimisation procedure the transverse mode profile was observed to change substantially, especially when the central transducers were varied. However, as expected the output mode profile converged rapidly towards the desired single-lobed profile after both stage 1 passes were completed. Stage 2 of the optimisation cleaned up the mode distribution further resulting in an accurate TEM00 transverse mode profile. Also a consequence of the optimisation: the average output power increased to 120mW. The physical change in the mirror during optimisation is subtle as shown on figure 7. A full interpretation of the interference pattern is beyond the scope of the current paper and is the subject of further investigation. A real time video of the optimisation procedure is displayed in figure 8.

Figure 7. Beam profiles from the Nd:YVO4 laser and associated interference patterns recorded at various intervals during an optimisation sequence. A histogram of the detected average output power is also shown
Figure 8. (2.9MB) video of a real time optimisation procedure

7. Conclusion

We have demonstrated automatic spatial mode control by using an electronically addressable 37-element deformable membrane mirror in an all-solid-state laser cavity. Two methods of optimisation have been demonstrated based on a physical aperture arrangement and also a more flexible video based variant. During the optimisation sequence a thermally induced lag was observed, which has consequences on the speed of optimisation specifically during the phase where a large mirror deviation is required. In order to simplify and hence maximise the flexibility of the system, an additional piezo controlled ‘tilt’ mirror and motorized cavity length control will be required and these improvements are currently under investigation. Using a Michelson interferometer for in-situ determination of the shape of the mirror has proved a reliable method of accurately determining the detailed shape of the AO mirror, and as such reflects the nature of the actual thermal lens induced within the laser rod.

References and Links

1.

J.M. Eggleston, T.J. Kane, K. Kuhn, J. Unternahrer, and R.L. Byer, “The slab geometry laser. I. Theory,” IEEE J. Quantum Electron. QE-20, 289–301, (1984). [CrossRef]

2.

W. Koechner, Solid-State Laser Engineering, 5th edition (Springer Series in Optical Sciences, 1999).

3.

D. Burns, G.J. Valentine, W. Lubeigt, E. Bente, and A.I. Ferguson, “Development of High Average Power Picosecond Laser Systems,” Proc SPIE 4629, 4629–18, (2002).

4.

D.A. Rockwell, “A review of phase-conjugate solid-state lasers,” IEEE J. Quantum Electron. 24, 1124–1140, (1988). [CrossRef]

5.

S. Makki and J. Leger, “Solid-state laser resonators with diffractive optic thermal aberration correction,” IEEE J. Quantum Electron. 35, 1075–1085, (1999). [CrossRef]

6.

R. Tyson, Principles of Adaptive Optics, 2nd edition, (Academic Press, 1998).

7.

Flexible Optical B.V., PO Box 581, 2600 AN, Delft, the Netherlands, www.okotech.com

8.

G. Vdovin G, P.M. Sarro, and S. Middelhoek, “Technology and applications of micro-machined adaptive mirrors,” J. Micromech. Microeng. 9, R8–R19 (1999). [CrossRef]

9.

G. Vdovin and V. Kiyko, “Intracavity control of a 200-W continuous-wave Nd:YAG laser by a micro-machined deformable mirror,” Opt. Lett. 26, 798–800 (2001). [CrossRef]

10.

K.F. Man, Genetic Algorithms: concepts and designs, (Springer Series, 1999). [CrossRef]

11.

S. Kirkpatrick, C.D. Gelatt Jr., and M.P. Vecchi, “Optimization by simulated annealing,” Science 220 (4598), 671–680 (1983). [CrossRef] [PubMed]

OCIS Codes
(140.3580) Lasers and laser optics : Lasers, solid-state
(140.6810) Lasers and laser optics : Thermal effects

ToC Category:
Research Papers

History
Original Manuscript: May 30, 2002
Revised Manuscript: June 21, 2002
Published: July 1, 2002

Citation
Walter Lubeigt, Gareth Valentine, John Girkin, Erwin Bente, and David Burns, "Active transverse mode control and optimization of an all-solid-state laser using an intracavity adaptive-optic mirror," Opt. Express 10, 550-555 (2002)
http://www.opticsinfobase.org/oe/abstract.cfm?URI=oe-10-13-550


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References

  1. J.M. Eggleston, T.J. Kane, K. Kuhn, J. Unternahrer, and R.L. Byer, �??The slab geometry laser. I. Theory,�?? IEEE J. Quantum Electron. QE-20, 289-301, (1984). [CrossRef]
  2. W. Koechner, Solid-State Laser Engineering, 5th edition (Springer Series in Optical Sciences, 1999).
  3. D. Burns, G.J. Valentine, W. Lubeigt, E. Bente, A.I. Ferguson, �??Development of High Average Power Picosecond Laser Systems,�?? Proc SPIE 4629, 4629-18, (2002).
  4. D. A. Rockwell, �??A review of phase-conjugate solid-state lasers,�?? IEEE J. Quantum Electron. 24, 1124-1140, (1988). [CrossRef]
  5. S. Makki, J. Leger, �??Solid-state laser resonators with diffractive optic thermal aberration correction,�?? IEEE J. Quantum Electron. 35, 1075-1085, (1999). [CrossRef]
  6. R. Tyson, Principles of Adaptive Optics, 2nd edition, (Academic Press, 1998).
  7. Flexible Optical B.V., PO Box 581, 2600 AN, Delft, the Netherlands, <a href="www.okotech.com">www.okotech.com</a>
  8. G. Vdovin G, P.M. Sarro, S. Middelhoek, �??Technology and applications of micro-machined adaptive mirrors,�?? J. Micromech. Microeng. 9, R8-R19 (1999). [CrossRef]
  9. G. Vdovin, V. Kiyko, �??Intracavity control of a 200-W continuous-wave Nd:YAG laser by a micromachined deformable mirror,�?? Opt. Lett. 26, 798-800 (2001). [CrossRef]
  10. K. F. Man, Genetic Algorithms: concepts and designs, (Springer Series, 1999). [CrossRef]
  11. S. Kirkpatrick, C.D. Gelatt, Jr., and M.P. Vecchi, �??Optimization by simulated annealing,�?? Science 220 (4598), 671-680 (1983). [CrossRef] [PubMed]

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