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Optical Materials Express

Optical Materials Express

  • Editor: David J. Hagan
  • Vol. 1, Iss. 3 — Jul. 1, 2011
  • pp: 489–502
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On Yb:CaF2 and Yb:SrF2: review of spectroscopic and thermal properties and their impact on femtosecond and high power laser performance [Invited]

Frédéric Druon, Sandrine Ricaud, Dimitris N. Papadopoulos, Alain Pellegrina, Patrice Camy, Jean Louis Doualan, Richard Moncorgé, Antoine Courjaud, Eric Mottay, and Patrick Georges  »View Author Affiliations


Optical Materials Express, Vol. 1, Issue 3, pp. 489-502 (2011)
http://dx.doi.org/10.1364/OME.1.000489


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Abstract

We present an overview of laser results we obtained with Yb-doped calcium fluoride and its isotype strontium fluoride. In order to study the laser performance in femtosecond and high power regimes, spectral and thermal properties are first discussed including the potential of these crystals at room and cryogenic temperatures. Experimental demonstrations of high-power and ultrashort pulse oscillators and amplifiers are presented and analyzed.

© 2011 OSA

1. Introduction

Calcium fluoride (CaF2 also known in crystallography as fluorite or fluorospar [1

1. W. J. Humphreys, “On the presence of yttrium and ytterbium in Fluor-Spar,” Astrophys. J. 20, 266–273 (1904). [CrossRef]

]), has raised the interest of the laser community since the very beginning [2

2. P. P. Sorokin and M. J. Stevenson, “Stimulated infrared emission from trivalent uranium,” Phys. Rev. Lett. 5(12), 557–559 (1960). [CrossRef]

,3

3. S. E. Hatch, W. F. Parsons, and R. J. Weagley, “Hot-pressed polycrystalline CaF2:Dy2+ laser,” Appl. Phys. Lett. 5(8), 153–153 (1964). [CrossRef]

]. Nevertheless, this matrix was almost absent for laser applications until its revival in 2004 with the ytterbium doping. Indeed, since its first laser operation in 2004 [4

4. V. Petit, J. L. Doualan, P. Camy, V. Menard, and R. Moncorgé, “CW and tunable laser operation of Yb3+ doped CaF2,” Appl. Phys. B 78(6), 681–684 (2004). [CrossRef]

6

6. A. Lucca, G. Debourg, M. Jacquemet, F. Druon, F. Balembois, P. Georges, P. Camy, J. L. Doualan, and R. Moncorgé, “High-power diode-pumped Yb3+:CaF2 femtosecond laser,” Opt. Lett. 29(23), 2767–2769 (2004). [CrossRef] [PubMed]

], Yb:CaF2 and its isotype SrF2 have been among the most studied and promising crystals for the development of short-pulse, high-energy, high-power diode-pumped solid state lasers [7

7. M. Siebold, S. Bock, U. Schramm, B. Xu, J. L. Doualan, P. Camy, and R. Moncorgé, “Yb:CaF2 — a new old laser crystal,” Appl. Phys. B 97(2), 327–338 (2009). [CrossRef]

,8

8. J. L. Doualan, P. Camy, A. Benayad, V. Ménard, R. Moncorgé, J. Boudeile, F. Druon, F. Balembois, and P. Georges, “Yb3+ doped (Ca,Sr,Ba)F2 for high power laser applications,” Laser Phys. 20(2), 533–536 (2010). [CrossRef]

] with, for example, the recent development of a TW chain [9

9. M. Siebold, M. Hornung, R. Boedefeld, S. Podleska, S. Klingebiel, C. Wandt, F. Krausz, S. Karsch, R. Uecker, A. Jochmann, J. Hein, and M. C. Kaluza, “Terawatt diode-pumped Yb:CaF2 laser,” Opt. Lett. 33(23), 2770–2772 (2008). [CrossRef] [PubMed]

]. Three main reasons explain this trend. First, calcium fluoride is a simple cubic crystal whose crystallographic properties are fairly well known. This crystal can be grown in large dimension and optical-quality ceramics for laser applications have been demonstrated a long time ago [3

3. S. E. Hatch, W. F. Parsons, and R. J. Weagley, “Hot-pressed polycrystalline CaF2:Dy2+ laser,” Appl. Phys. Lett. 5(8), 153–153 (1964). [CrossRef]

]. Second, the simple structure of this crystal permits to obtain good thermal properties [10

10. G. A. Slack, “Thermal conductivity of CaF2, MnF2, CoF2, and ZnF2 crystals,” Phys. Rev. 122(5), 1451–1464 (1961). [CrossRef]

,11

11. J. Boudeile, J. Didierjean, P. Camy, J. L. Doualan, A. Benayad, V. Ménard, R. Moncorgé, F. Druon, F. Balembois, and P. Georges, “Thermal behaviour of ytterbium-doped fluorite crystals under high power pumping,” Opt. Express 16(14), 10098–10109 (2008). [CrossRef] [PubMed]

]. Finally, Yb-doped fluorides have very broad and smooth emission bands, which is exceptional for cubic crystals. This is explained by the different valencies of the dopant (Yb3+) and the substituted alkaline cations (Ca2+, Sr2+) which induces the creation of clusters during the doping process [12

12. C. R. A. Catlow, A. V. Chadwick, G. N. Greaves, and L. M. Moroney, “Direct observations of the dopant environment in fluorites using EXAFS,” Nature 312(5995), 601–604 (1984). [CrossRef]

16

16. P. Camy, J. L. Doualan, A. Benayad, M. von Edlinger, V. Ménard, and R. Moncorgé, “Comparative spectroscopic and laser properties of Yb3+-doped CaF2, SrF2 and BaF2 single crystals,” Appl. Phys. B 89(4), 539–542 (2007). [CrossRef]

]. The cluster organization of Yb-doped fluorides is therefore a key point to obtain ultra broad emission bands. The exceptional feature of Yb-doped fluorides, combining both good thermal and spectral properties –which are often contradictory for Yb-doped materials–, makes them very attractive (Fig. 1
Fig. 1 Figure of merit plotting thermal conductivity (undoped crystals) versus emission bandwidth (at room temperature) in order to estimate the potential of Yb-doped laser hosts for the development of high-average-power, short-pulse lasers.
) for diode-pumped femtosecond solid-state lasers aiming at the generation of high-energy ultrashort pulses with high average power.

In this paper, the fluorides exception is studied more deeply with a description of the spectral and thermal properties of these materials at room and cryogenic temperatures. Moreover, the impact of these properties on laser performance is discussed by examining the experimental results already obtained in the high-average-power CW-laser regime and in ultrashort femtosecond oscillators and amplifiers.

2. Spectral considerations

One of the main spectroscopic interest of Yb-doped fluorides concerns their very broad and smooth emission bands, which is exceptional for cubic crystals. As mentioned above, it comes from the formation of Yb3+ clusters which occur during the doping process because of a question of charge compensation [12

12. C. R. A. Catlow, A. V. Chadwick, G. N. Greaves, and L. M. Moroney, “Direct observations of the dopant environment in fluorites using EXAFS,” Nature 312(5995), 601–604 (1984). [CrossRef]

16

16. P. Camy, J. L. Doualan, A. Benayad, M. von Edlinger, V. Ménard, and R. Moncorgé, “Comparative spectroscopic and laser properties of Yb3+-doped CaF2, SrF2 and BaF2 single crystals,” Appl. Phys. B 89(4), 539–542 (2007). [CrossRef]

]. This cluster effect occurs at the lowest doping levels but it really becomes preponderant for Yb-doping above 0.5at%. The organization of the Yb3+ ions in these clusters leads to only one kind of luminescent and laser active center but due to some structural disorder inside and between the clusters, the spectroscopy of the Yb3+ ions resembles that of a glass leading to broad and relatively smooth absorption and emission spectra. Co-doping the crystals with charge compensating ions such as monovalent Na+ ions has been used by some authors [17

17. A. Pugžlys, G. Andriukaitis, D. Sidorov, A. Irshad, A. Baltuška, W. J. Lai, P. B. Phua, L. Su, J. Xu, H. Li, R. Li, S. Ališauskas, A. Marcinkevicius, M. E. Fermann, L. Giniunas, and R. Danielius, “Spectroscopy and lasing of cryogenically cooled Yb,Na:CaF2,” Appl. Phys. B 97(2), 339–350 (2009). [CrossRef]

] to reduce the formation of divalent Yb2+ species. However, co-doping the crystals, at least by a non-negligible amount of Na+, which was not the case in [17

17. A. Pugžlys, G. Andriukaitis, D. Sidorov, A. Irshad, A. Baltuška, W. J. Lai, P. B. Phua, L. Su, J. Xu, H. Li, R. Li, S. Ališauskas, A. Marcinkevicius, M. E. Fermann, L. Giniunas, and R. Danielius, “Spectroscopy and lasing of cryogenically cooled Yb,Na:CaF2,” Appl. Phys. B 97(2), 339–350 (2009). [CrossRef]

], would lead to a disintegration of the clusters and to an undesired change of the luminescent properties (absorption, emission and lifetime) of the lasing center, which makes the interest of this particular laser system.

At room temperature the spectroscopic characteristics of Yb:CaF2 and Yb:SrF2 are very similar (Fig. 2
Fig. 2 Absorption spectra of Yb:CaF2 and Yb:SrF2 at room temperature.
, 3
Fig. 3 Emission spectra of Yb:CaF2 and Yb:SrF2 at room temperature.
and 4
Fig. 4 Gain cross section of Yb:CaF2, and Yb:SrF2 (for beta = 0.1 and 0.2) at room temperature (left) and LN2 temperature (right).
). And at low temperature, the spectra of these two crystals slightly differ, but with the good idea of having a complementary emission spectra in the 1020-1060 nm range (Fig. 4, 5
Fig. 5 Absorption spectra of Yb:CaF2 and Yb:SrF2 at LN2 temperature.
and 6
Fig. 6 Emission spectra of Yb:CaF2 and Yb:SrF2 at LN2 temperature.
).

At cryogenic temperature (see in Figs. 5 and 6) the absorption and emission spectra are more structured but their cross sections increase and they remain sufficiently large to allow for the production of ultrashort laser pulses.

In view of these spectra and knowing their respective emission lifetimes, each material has its own advantages: a higher peak absorption cross section around 980 nm and a longer fluorescence lifetime for Yb:SrF2 (2.9 ms compared to 2.4 ms for Yb:CaF2), and a wider and slightly larger gain cross section spectrum (see in Fig. 4) for Yb:CaF2.

In a regenerative amplifier configuration, the longer fluorescence lifetime is crucial since it permits higher energy storage, which leads potentially to higher energy pulses with repetition rates in the 100 Hz range. However, for mode-locked operation, the long lifetime becomes a disadvantage, leading to a strong tendency to operate in Q-switched regime [18

18. C. Hönninger, R. Paschotta, F. Morier-Genoud, M. Moser, and U. Keller, “Q-switching stability limits of continuous-wave passive mode locking,” J. Opt. Soc. Am. B 16(1), 46–56 (1999). [CrossRef]

]. It is also interesting to notice that the Yb:SrF2 gain cross-section spectrum is shifted to shorter wavelengths compared to the Yb:CaF2 spectrum. This spectral complementarity might be useful to design ultra broad laser oscillators and amplifiers based on the combination of both materials.

3. Thermal considerations

At first glance, the thermal properties and especially the thermal conductivities of calcium fluoride and strontium fluoride seem well-suited to the design of high power lasers. Indeed, the relatively simple structure of these cubic crystals induces good thermal conductivities in the range of 10 W.m−1K−1 at room temperature: 9.7 W.m−1K−1 for undoped CaF2 and 8.3 W.m−1K−1 for undoped SrF2. Nevertheless, other thermal properties of materials must be taken into account to assess more precisely their potential for high power lasers.

Specifically, a second important parameter is the thermo-optic coefficient. This parameter results from three effects: the refractive index variation versus temperature (dn/dT), the thermal expansion of the crystal, and the mechanical stress induced by the thermal loads. In the case of CaF2 and SrF2 [11

11. J. Boudeile, J. Didierjean, P. Camy, J. L. Doualan, A. Benayad, V. Ménard, R. Moncorgé, F. Druon, F. Balembois, and P. Georges, “Thermal behaviour of ytterbium-doped fluorite crystals under high power pumping,” Opt. Express 16(14), 10098–10109 (2008). [CrossRef] [PubMed]

] the second term is positive while the two others are negative with approximately the same absolute value, resulting in a negative thermo-optic coefficient of −11.3x10−6 K −1 for CaF2 and −15.9x10−6 K −1 for SrF2 at room temperature. The thermal lenses induced in the fluorides are relatively small and negative, making these crystals quite atypical compared to others whose thermo-optic coefficients are quasi systematically positive (e.g. in YAG the thermo-optic coefficient is 8.9x10−6 K −1).

Another important thermal properties is the thermal shock parameter [19

19. J. L. Ladison, J. J. Price, J. D. Helfinstine, and W. R. Rosch, “Hardness, elastic modulus, and fracture toughness bulk properties in Corning calcium fluoride,” Proc. SPIE 5754, 1329–1338 (2004). [CrossRef]

,20

20. W. F. Krupke, M. D. Shinn, J. E. Marion, J. A. Caird, and S. E. Stokowski, “Spectroscopic, optical, and thermomechanical properties of neodymium- and chromium-doped gadolinium scandium gallium garnet,” J. Opt. Soc. Am. B 3(1), 102–114 (1986). [CrossRef]

]; it is well known that fluorite is sensitive to thermal shocks. Indeed, the thermal shock parameter of undoped CaF2 (cf. Table 1

Table 1. Spectroscopic and Thermal Properties of Undoped and Yb doped CaF2 at Room and LN2 Temperatures [6,10,11,19,25,2733]

table-icon
View This Table
) is 7 times lower than for YAG for example. Fluorite is therefore relatively sensitive to fracture, and requires special precaution in high power pumping configuration to ensure slow variations of pump power absorption.

Concerning parasitic thermal loads, a strong advantage of CaF2 is its broad transparency range extending up into the VUV (≈160 nm), which avoids the possibility of multi-photon absorptions at high power levels. Nevertheless, when doped with ytterbium, the crystal transparency range depends strongly on the growing process. Indeed, depending on the fabrication technique, the possible presence of Yb2+ leads to an absorption band around 390 nm (Fig. 7
Fig. 7 Absorption spectra for two different qualities of Yb:CaF2 crystals.
). To avoid the formation of divalent Yb2+ species, it is not necessary to co-dope the crystals with charge compensators like Na+ or to apply special post-growth treatment. Actually, it is only necessary to grow the crystals with the adequate atmosphere. The overall thermal behavior can be degraded under high intensity pumping if the quantity of Yb2+ is not adequately reduced. Moreover, the growing process of Yb:CaF2 and Yb:SrF2 is sufficiently well mastered to allow a very good quantum efficiency (determined with the method of Chénais et al. [21

21. S. Chénais, F. Balembois, F. Druon, G. Lucas-Leclin, and P. Georges, “Thermal lensing in diode-pumped ytterbium lasers - Part I: theoretical analysis and wavefront measurements,” IEEE J. Quantum Electron. 40(9), 1217–1234 (2004). [CrossRef]

23

23. S. Chénais, F. Druon, S. Forget, F. Balembois, and P. Georges, “On thermal effects in solid-state lasers: the case of ytterbium-doped materials,” Prog. Quantum Electron. 30(4), 89–153 (2006). [CrossRef]

]): measured to be higher than 99% in both cases. This leads to a very low thermal load due to non-radiative effects with these crystals: 0.7% for Yb:CaF2 and 0.5% forYb:SrF2.

Another effect to take into account to fully assess the thermal properties is the influence of the Yb3+ doping on the thermal behavior.

Up to now, few works have been performed on this subject. But it clearly appears that the doping level impacts negatively the thermal properties. For example, the thermal conductivity decreases by a factor of 2 from undoped CaF2 to 5%Yb- doped CaF2. To approximate the behavior, a law for low doping level (< 10%), derived from the Gaumé’s model [24

24. R. Gaumé, B. Viana, D. Vivien, J. P. Roger, and D. Fournier, “A simple model for the prediction of thermal conductivity in pure and doped in saluting crystals,” Appl. Phys. Lett. 83(7), 1355–1357 (2003). [CrossRef]

], is given by the following equation:
κ=βκ0darctan(κ0dβ),
(1)
where κ0 stands for the thermal conductivity for the undoped crystal, d the doping level [34

34. One can notice that a better fit can be obtained by replacing d by d(1–2.8d) for d<0.25 in the Eq. (1).

], and β equals at room temperature to 0.28 for Yb:CaF2 and 0.15 for SrF2. In conclusion the doping level strongly influences the thermal properties. The change of thermal conductivity also affects other thermal properties, such as the thermal shock parameter, which is proportional to the thermal conductivity.

In conclusion, laser operation at cryogenic temperature has to be considered very precisely; in fact the pros are higher gain and better thermal resistance at high power level but the cons are the more structured emission band and a strong dependence of the thermal conductivity with the doping concentration.

4. High power experiments

To validate the good thermal properties of fluorides and especially of Yb:CaF2, high power laser experiments have been performed in the CW regime [11

11. J. Boudeile, J. Didierjean, P. Camy, J. L. Doualan, A. Benayad, V. Ménard, R. Moncorgé, F. Druon, F. Balembois, and P. Georges, “Thermal behaviour of ytterbium-doped fluorite crystals under high power pumping,” Opt. Express 16(14), 10098–10109 (2008). [CrossRef] [PubMed]

]. At room temperature, with a simple 3-mirror cavity operating in the TEM00 mode, with a 2.6-%Yb-doped 5-mm long Yb:CaF2 crystal, 10.2 W at 1053 nm have been obtained for a 64 W incident pump power at 980 nm (39 W absorbed) and, with a 2.9-%Yb-doped 5-mm long Yb:SrF2 crystal, 5.8 W at 1051 nm have been obtained for 26 W incident power (20 W absorbed). In these conditions the temperature difference between the center of the laser beam in the crystal and the periphery is around 30°C, leading to a thermal lens with a focal length around −110 mm. At cryogenic temperature (77 K), the laser performances are clearly improved [37

37. S. Ricaud, D. N. Papadopoulos, P. Camy, J. L. Doualan, R. Moncorgé, A. Courjaud, E. Mottay, P. Georges, and F. Druon, “Highly efficient, high-power, broadly tunable, cryogenically cooled and diode-pumped Yb:CaF2.,” Opt. Lett. 35(22), 3757–3759 (2010). [CrossRef] [PubMed]

]: a total average power of 97 W at 1034 nm is obtained when pumping with 212 W incident power (150 W absorbed). These better performances can be explained first by the increase of the gain cross section which allows a better laser efficiency; and also by the possibility of pumping with higher pump power. Actually, the better thermal shock parameter at cryogenic temperature allows us to pump up to 250 W instead of 100 W which was, at room temperature, closed to the fracture limitation with our apparatus.

5. Short pulse generation

In order to generate the shortest pulse, we used the cavity described in Fig. 10
Fig. 10 Short-pulse oscillator setup.
with a high brightness laser diode: a 7-W laser diode at 980 nm coupled to a 50 µm fiber. We used 6.1-mm-long, 3 x 7 mm2 section Brewster-cut crystals: an Yb:CaF2 crystal doped at 2.6% and an Yb:SrF2 crystal doped at 2.9% [38

38. F. Friebel, F. Druon, J. Boudeile, D. N. Papadopoulos, M. Hanna, P. Georges, P. Camy, J. L. Doualan, A. Benayad, R. Moncorgé, C. Cassagne, and G. Boudebs, “Diode-pumped 99 fs Yb:CaF2 oscillator,” Opt. Lett. 34(9), 1474–1476 (2009). [CrossRef] [PubMed]

,39

39. F. Druon, D. N. Papadopoulos, J. Boudeile, M. Hanna, P. Georges, A. Benayad, P. Camy, J. L. Doualan, V. Ménard, and R. Moncorgé, “Mode-locked operation of a diode-pumped femtosecond Yb:SrF2 laser,” Opt. Lett. 34(15), 2354–2356 (2009). [CrossRef] [PubMed]

]. The repetition rate of the cavity was 112.5 MHz.

The shortest pulses are obtained with Yb:CaF2. We achieve a stable continuous-wave modelocked (CW ML) regime with 99 fs pulses. The average power is 380 mW for a 7 W pumping diode. The corresponding spectrum is centred at 1053.4 nm (Fig. 11
Fig. 11 Spectra obtained with in mode-locked oscillator.
) and has a bandwidth of 13.2 nm. In this case the short pulses are generated with the assistance of the Kerr effect. The non-linear index of CaF2 is 1.9x10−20 m2/W [40

40. D. Milam, M. J. Weber, and A. J. Glass, “Nonlinear refractive index of fluoride crystals,” Appl. Phys. Lett. 31(12), 822–825 (1977). [CrossRef]

]. The spectrum is clearly broadened compared to the case where the Kerr effect is negligible (Fig. 11): in this case, the pulse is lengthened (120 fs) and the power gets higher (595 mW).

For Yb:SrF2 the pulses are longer but the average power gets higher. The shortest pulses obtained with this setup have a duration of 143 fs for a 8.5-nm-bandwidth spectrum centered at 1046.7 nm. The corresponding average power is 450 mW. The long lifetime of Yb:SrF2 does not favor mode-locking [18

18. C. Hönninger, R. Paschotta, F. Morier-Genoud, M. Moser, and U. Keller, “Q-switching stability limits of continuous-wave passive mode locking,” J. Opt. Soc. Am. B 16(1), 46–56 (1999). [CrossRef]

] and a soliton-like regime [41

41. F. X. Kärtner and U. Keller, “Stabilization of solitonlike pulses with a slow saturable absorber,” Opt. Lett. 20(1), 16–18 (1995). [CrossRef] [PubMed]

] strongly assisted by the SESAM absorber [42

42. U. Keller, “Semiconductor nonlinearities for solid-state laser modelocking and Q-switching,” in Semiconductors and Semimetals (1998), Vol. 39, Chap. 4.

] is then expected. Soliton pulse shaping and gain filtering play a major role in obtaining a stable mode-locked regime. Therefore small deviations from the ideal soliton regime would result in energy shedding to continuum, thereby initiating Q-switching for this long lifetime material. In other words, the range of stable CW-ML operation around the “ideal” soliton regime is very restricted [43

43. H. A. Haus, “Theory of modelocking with a fast saturable absorber,” J. Appl. Phys. 46(7), 3049–3058 (1975). [CrossRef]

]. Moreover the Kerr lens effect is smaller in the case of SrF2 where the non-linear index equals 1.76x10−20 m2/W [40

40. D. Milam, M. J. Weber, and A. J. Glass, “Nonlinear refractive index of fluoride crystals,” Appl. Phys. Lett. 31(12), 822–825 (1977). [CrossRef]

]. The experimentally obtained time-bandwidth product reflects this ideal soliton regime with a value only 5% above the theoretical value.

In conclusion, Yb:CaF2 seems more favorable than Yb:SrF2, in the same conditions, to generate short pulses. Nevertheless, the emission spectra are slightly different which can justified the use of Yb:SrF2 for some specific applications. Compared to other crystals [44

44. F. Druon, F. Balembois, and P. Georges, “New laser crystals for the generation of ultrashort pulses,” C. R. Phys. 8(2), 153–164 (2007). [CrossRef]

], the potential for ultrashort pulse duration seems not fully exploited for Yb:CaF2 and Yb:SrF2. Nevertheless they have demonstrated good performances in terms of pulse duration and average power for femtosecond oscillators in the 1050 nm range.

6. Short pulse amplification

To evaluate the performance of fluoride crystals in amplifiers, a regenerative amplifier has been developed with the main goal of exploring the limitations in terms of pulse duration of Yb:CaF2 and Yb:SrF2 based amplifiers [45

45. S. Ricaud, F. Druon, D. N. Papadopoulos, P. Camy, J. L. Doualan, R. Moncorgé, M. Delaigue, Y. Zaouter, A. Courjaud, P. Georges, and E. Mottay, “Short-pulse and high-repetition-rate diode-pumped Yb:CaF2 regenerative amplifier,” Opt. Lett. 35(14), 2415–2417 (2010). [CrossRef] [PubMed]

]. The experiment was performed with the same crystals used for the oscillators. The experimental set-up for the regenerative amplifier is illustrated in Fig. 12
Fig. 12 Regenerative amplifier setup.
. In order to optimize the injection spectrum in terms of bandwidth and maximum gain, the seed pulses were generated by a broadband Yb:CALGO oscillator centered at 1043 nm with a fwhm bandwidth of 15 nm at a repetition rate of 27 MHz [46

46. D. N. Papadopoulos, F. Druon, J. Boudeile, I. Martial, M. Hanna, P. Georges, P. O. Petit, P. Goldner, and B. Viana, “Low-repetition-rate femtosecond operation in extended-cavity mode-locked Yb:CALGO laser,” Opt. Lett. 34(2), 196–198 (2009). [CrossRef] [PubMed]

]. The pulses are stretched to 260 ps with a single transmission grating (1600 l/mm) optical arrangement. The regenerative amplifier is composed of a thin-film polarizer (TFP) and a BBO Pockels cell. The Pockels cell is adjusted as a quarter waveplate at 45° in the static state, i.e. without high voltage, and no birefringent effect with high voltage. The TFP is used in combination with the Pockels cell to extract the output pulse. Between the stretcher and the amplifier, a TFP, a Faraday rotator and a half-wave plate are used to separate the input and output beams. Finally, after increasing the beam diameter by a factor of two, the chirped pulses are sent to a grating compressor (1600 l/mm), based on two transmission gratings, with a 45% efficiency.

As shown in Fig. 13
Fig. 13 Evolution of the spectrum in Q-switched and injected regime (blue and deep blue for Yb:SrF2, red and deep red for Yb:SrF2-), and oscillator spectrum (black).
, with Yb:CaF2, when the seed pulse is centered at 1043 nm, the bandwidth of the output pulse is 15 nm, fitting well with the spectrum obtained in the Q-switched free running mode. The input spectrum (centered at 1043 nm) is slightly blue-shifted to 1040 nm, corresponding to the gain spectrum of Yb:CaF2. At repetition rates up to 500 Hz, a pulse energy of 1.4 mJ/0.62 mJ (before/after compression) with a pulse duration of 178 fs is obtained.

With Yb:SrF2, at a 100 Hz repetition rate, we obtain a pulse duration of 325 fs for a spectral bandwidth of 5.8 nm (FWHM). The energies before and after compression are 1.4 mJ and 850 µJ respectively, giving an-optical-to-optical efficiency of 1.1% before compression. The build-up time in the present case is 1.7 µs compared to 1.4 µs in the case of Yb:CaF2 indicating a lower small single pass gain. Shorter pulses are obtained with Yb:CaF2, but this is mainly due to the better overlap between the Yb:CALGO oscillator and the Yb:CaF2 gain spectra. Indeed, the Yb:SrF2 gain spectrum is shifted to shorter wavelengths, and only one peak of the Q-swiched free-running-mode spectrum is used efficiently.

An interesting aspect of these results is that spectra obtained with Yb:CaF2 and Yb:SrF2 are remarkably complementary. Both spectra have a “camel” shape, i.e. peaks located at 1027 and 1041 nm and a dip at 1036 nm for Yb:SrF2, and peaks at 1036 and 1047 nm and a dip at 1041 nm for Yb:CaF2. Thus, by combining both materials (with two different bulk crystals or single combined ceramics [47

47. T. T. Basiev, M. E. Doroshenko, P. P. Fedorov, V. A. Konyushkin, S. V. Kuznetsov, V. V. Osiko, and M. Sh. Akchurin, “Efficient laser based on CaF2-SrF2-YbF3 nanoceramics,” Opt. Lett. 33(5), 521–523 (2008). [CrossRef] [PubMed]

]) we should obtain a broadband gain spectrum between 1025 and 1050 nm. Seeded by a broadband oscillator, with a spectrum centered at 1038 nm, a regenerative amplifier with both crystals in the cavity should lead to sub-100 fs laser pulses, with the potential for a few millijoules pulses at a high repetition rate.

The interest of Yb:CaF2 and Yb:SrF2 compared to other Yb-doped crystals are much more obvious for amplifiers [48

48. F. Druon, F. Balembois, and P. Georges, “New materials for short-pulse amplifiers,” IEEE Photonics J. 3(2), 268–273 (2011).

] than for oscillators. In fact, in the current state of the art, they are among the best Yb-doped crystals for short pulse duration [45

45. S. Ricaud, F. Druon, D. N. Papadopoulos, P. Camy, J. L. Doualan, R. Moncorgé, M. Delaigue, Y. Zaouter, A. Courjaud, P. Georges, and E. Mottay, “Short-pulse and high-repetition-rate diode-pumped Yb:CaF2 regenerative amplifier,” Opt. Lett. 35(14), 2415–2417 (2010). [CrossRef] [PubMed]

,49

49. A. Pugžlys, G. Andriukaitis, A. Baltuška, L. Su, J. Xu, H. Li, R. Li, W. J. Lai, P. B. Phua, A. Marcinkevičius, M. E. Fermann, L. Giniūnas, R. Danielius, and S. Ališauskas, “Multi-mJ, 200-fs, cw-pumped, cryogenically cooled, Yb,Na:CaF2 amplifier,” Opt. Lett. 34(13), 2075–2077 (2009). [CrossRef] [PubMed]

] and high peak power [9

9. M. Siebold, M. Hornung, R. Boedefeld, S. Podleska, S. Klingebiel, C. Wandt, F. Krausz, S. Karsch, R. Uecker, A. Jochmann, J. Hein, and M. C. Kaluza, “Terawatt diode-pumped Yb:CaF2 laser,” Opt. Lett. 33(23), 2770–2772 (2008). [CrossRef] [PubMed]

] generation tanks to their exceptional bandwidth and storage capacity.

7. Conclusion

The potential of ytterbium-doped calcium and strontium fluorides for high-power short pulse lasers has been demonstrated. Multi-watt oscillators and amplifiers have been developed successfully. This is due to the very particular spectroscopic and thermal properties of this crystal family, combining ultra-broad emission bandwidths and good thermal properties. The values of various physical parameters that are relevant for high-power short pulse operation clearly confirm the attractiveness of this material for laser applications. The experiments presented in this paper represent a summary of the work done by the CIMAP and LCFIO laboratories. For a more complete state of the art, the authors would like to point out other very interesting works made at the Institute for Optics and Quantum Electronics (Jena) within the POLARIS Project and the Research Center Dresden-Rossendorf (FZD Dresden) within the FZD-Petawatt Project on high-energy diode-pumped solid state lasers based on Yb:CaF2 and Yb:SrF2 [7

7. M. Siebold, S. Bock, U. Schramm, B. Xu, J. L. Doualan, P. Camy, and R. Moncorgé, “Yb:CaF2 — a new old laser crystal,” Appl. Phys. B 97(2), 327–338 (2009). [CrossRef]

,9

9. M. Siebold, M. Hornung, R. Boedefeld, S. Podleska, S. Klingebiel, C. Wandt, F. Krausz, S. Karsch, R. Uecker, A. Jochmann, J. Hein, and M. C. Kaluza, “Terawatt diode-pumped Yb:CaF2 laser,” Opt. Lett. 33(23), 2770–2772 (2008). [CrossRef] [PubMed]

,50

50. M. Siebold, J. Hein, M. C. Kaluza, and R. Uecker, “High-peak-power tunable laser operation of Yb:SrF2.,” Opt. Lett. 32(13), 1818–1820 (2007). [CrossRef] [PubMed]

,51

51. M. Siebold, M. Hornung, S. Bock, J. Hein, M. C. Kaluza, J. Wemans, and R. Uecker, “Broad-band regenerative laser amplification in ytterbium-doped calcium fluoride (Yb:CaF2),” Appl. Phys. B 89(4), 543–547 (2007). [CrossRef]

], at the Photonics Institute of Vienna on short pulse amplifiers at cryogenic temperature based on Yb,Na:CaF2 and Yb:CaF2 [17

17. A. Pugžlys, G. Andriukaitis, D. Sidorov, A. Irshad, A. Baltuška, W. J. Lai, P. B. Phua, L. Su, J. Xu, H. Li, R. Li, S. Ališauskas, A. Marcinkevicius, M. E. Fermann, L. Giniunas, and R. Danielius, “Spectroscopy and lasing of cryogenically cooled Yb,Na:CaF2,” Appl. Phys. B 97(2), 339–350 (2009). [CrossRef]

,49

49. A. Pugžlys, G. Andriukaitis, A. Baltuška, L. Su, J. Xu, H. Li, R. Li, W. J. Lai, P. B. Phua, A. Marcinkevičius, M. E. Fermann, L. Giniūnas, R. Danielius, and S. Ališauskas, “Multi-mJ, 200-fs, cw-pumped, cryogenically cooled, Yb,Na:CaF2 amplifier,” Opt. Lett. 34(13), 2075–2077 (2009). [CrossRef] [PubMed]

,52

52. G. Andriukaitis, D. Kartashov, D. Lorenc, A. Pugžlys, A. Baltuška, L. Giniūnas, R. Danielius, J. Limpert, T. Clausnitzer, E.-B. Kley, A. Voronin, and A. Zheltikov, “Hollow-fiber compression of 6 mJ pulses from a continuous-wave diode-pumped single-stage Yb,Na:CaF2 chirped pulse amplifier,” Opt. Lett. 36(10), 1914–1916 (2011). [CrossRef] [PubMed]

] and at the Laser Materials and Technology Research Center (Russia) on doped fluoride crystals and ceramics [53

53. J. Šulc, H. Jelínková, M. E. Doroshenko, T. T. Basiev, V. A. Konyushkin, and P. P. Fedorov, “Tunability of lasers based on Yb3+-doped fluorides SrF2, SrF2-CaF2, SrF2-BaF2, and YLF,” in Advanced Solid-State Photonics (ASSP), OSA Technical Digest Series (CD) (Optical Society of America, 2009), paper WB16.

,54

54. O. K. Alimov, T. T. Basiev, M. E. Doroshenko, P. P. Fedorov, V. A. Konyushkin, S. V. Kouznetsov, A. N. Nakladov, V. V. Osiko, H. Jelinkova, and J. Šulc, “Spectroscopic and oscillation properties of Yb3+ ions in BaF2-SrF2-CaF2 crystals and ceramics,” in Advanced Solid-State Photonics (ASSP), OSA Technical Digest Series (CD) (Optical Society of America, 2009), paper WB25.

] associated with the Bryansk State University (Russia) for the thermal properties studies [25

25. P. Popov, P. Fedorov, S. Kuznetsov, V. Konyushkin, V. Osiko, and T. Basiev, “Thermal conductivity of single crystals of Ca1-xYbxF2+x solid solution,” Dokl. Phys. 53(4), 198–200 (2008). [CrossRef]

,55

55. P. Popov, K. V. Dukel’skii, I. A. Mironov, A. N. Smirnov, P. L. Smolyanskii, P. P. Fedorov, V. Osiko, and T. Basiev, “Thermal conductivity of CaF2 optical ceramic,” Dokl. Phys. 412(2), 185–187 (2007).

57

57. P. A. Popov, P. P. Fedorov, S. V. Kuznetsov, V. A. Konyushkin, V. V. Osiko, and T. T. Basiev, “Thermal conductivity of single crystals of Ba1–xYbxF2+x solid solution,” Dokl. Phys. 421(2), 183–185 (2008).

]. The field of applications of fluorides is then in full expansion. The current developments now concern the scaling up in energy involving studies on high-quality, large-dimension crystals [58

58. P. Aubry, A. Bensalah, P. Gredin, G. Patriarche, D. Vivien, and M. Mortier, “Synthesis and optical characterizations of Yb-doped CaF2 ceramics,” Opt. Mater. 31(5), 750–753 (2009). [CrossRef]

,59

59. T. Toepfer, J. Neukum, J. Hein, and M. Siebold, “Very-large-scale DPSS lasers are coming,” Laser Focus World 46(10), 64–67 (2010).

], the scaling up in average power involving specific laser geometries such as thin disks [60

60. T. Südmeyer, C. Kränkel, C. R. E. Baer, O. H. Heckl, C. J. Saraceno, M. Golling, R. Peters, K. Petermann, G. Huber, and U. Keller, “High-power ultrafast thin disk laser oscillators and their potential for sub-100- femtosecond pulse generation,” Appl. Phys. B 97(2), 281–295 (2009). [CrossRef]

62

62. J. Neuhaus, D. Bauer, J. Zhang, A. Killi, J. Kleinbauer, M. Kumkar, S. Weiler, M. Guina, D. H. Sutter, and T. Dekorsy, “Subpicosecond thin-disk laser oscillator with pulse energies of up to 25.9 microjoules by use of an active multipass geometry,” Opt. Express 16(25), 20530–20539 (2008). [CrossRef] [PubMed]

], slabs [63

63. P. Russbueldt, T. Mans, J. Weitenberg, H. D. Hoffmann, and R. Poprawe, “Compact diode-pumped 1.1 kW Yb:YAG Innoslab femtosecond amplifier,” Opt. Lett. 35(24), 4169–4171 (2010). [CrossRef] [PubMed]

] and crystalline fibers [64

64. Y. Zaouter, I. Martial, N. Aubry, J. Didierjean, C. Hönninger, E. Mottay, F. Druon, P. Georges, and F. Balembois, “Direct amplification of ultrashort pulses in μ-pulling-down Yb:YAG single crystal fibers,” Opt. Lett. 36(5), 748–750 (2011). [CrossRef] [PubMed]

], and the short pulse operation at cryogenic temperature involving ultra-low quantum defect configuration [65

65. S. Ricaud, D. N. Papadopoulos, A. Pellegrina, F. Balembois, P. Georges, A. Courjaud, P. Camy, J. L. Doualan, R. Moncorgé, and F. Druon, “High-power diode-pumped cryogenically cooled Yb:CaF₂ laser with extremely low quantum defect,” Opt. Lett. 36(9), 1602–1604 (2011). [CrossRef] [PubMed]

].

Acknowledgments

This work was supported by CNRS via the femtoseconde and crystal networks: CMDO + and FEMTO [66] through the entitled CRYBLE program, and by the Agence Nationale de la Recherche (ANR) through the entitled FEMTOCRYBLE project. The authors thank Pavel Popov, Vanessa Cardinali and Bruno Le Garrec for very fruitful discussions on thermal conductivity behavior of doped fluorites at cryogenic temperature.

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50.

M. Siebold, J. Hein, M. C. Kaluza, and R. Uecker, “High-peak-power tunable laser operation of Yb:SrF2.,” Opt. Lett. 32(13), 1818–1820 (2007). [CrossRef] [PubMed]

51.

M. Siebold, M. Hornung, S. Bock, J. Hein, M. C. Kaluza, J. Wemans, and R. Uecker, “Broad-band regenerative laser amplification in ytterbium-doped calcium fluoride (Yb:CaF2),” Appl. Phys. B 89(4), 543–547 (2007). [CrossRef]

52.

G. Andriukaitis, D. Kartashov, D. Lorenc, A. Pugžlys, A. Baltuška, L. Giniūnas, R. Danielius, J. Limpert, T. Clausnitzer, E.-B. Kley, A. Voronin, and A. Zheltikov, “Hollow-fiber compression of 6 mJ pulses from a continuous-wave diode-pumped single-stage Yb,Na:CaF2 chirped pulse amplifier,” Opt. Lett. 36(10), 1914–1916 (2011). [CrossRef] [PubMed]

53.

J. Šulc, H. Jelínková, M. E. Doroshenko, T. T. Basiev, V. A. Konyushkin, and P. P. Fedorov, “Tunability of lasers based on Yb3+-doped fluorides SrF2, SrF2-CaF2, SrF2-BaF2, and YLF,” in Advanced Solid-State Photonics (ASSP), OSA Technical Digest Series (CD) (Optical Society of America, 2009), paper WB16.

54.

O. K. Alimov, T. T. Basiev, M. E. Doroshenko, P. P. Fedorov, V. A. Konyushkin, S. V. Kouznetsov, A. N. Nakladov, V. V. Osiko, H. Jelinkova, and J. Šulc, “Spectroscopic and oscillation properties of Yb3+ ions in BaF2-SrF2-CaF2 crystals and ceramics,” in Advanced Solid-State Photonics (ASSP), OSA Technical Digest Series (CD) (Optical Society of America, 2009), paper WB25.

55.

P. Popov, K. V. Dukel’skii, I. A. Mironov, A. N. Smirnov, P. L. Smolyanskii, P. P. Fedorov, V. Osiko, and T. Basiev, “Thermal conductivity of CaF2 optical ceramic,” Dokl. Phys. 412(2), 185–187 (2007).

56.

P. A. Popov, P. P. Fedorov, V. A. Konyushkin, A. N. Nakladov, S. V. Kuznetsov, V. V. Osiko, and T. T. Basiev, “Thermal conductivity of single crystals of Sr1–xYbxF2+x solid solution,” Dokl. Phys. 421(5), 614–616 (2008).

57.

P. A. Popov, P. P. Fedorov, S. V. Kuznetsov, V. A. Konyushkin, V. V. Osiko, and T. T. Basiev, “Thermal conductivity of single crystals of Ba1–xYbxF2+x solid solution,” Dokl. Phys. 421(2), 183–185 (2008).

58.

P. Aubry, A. Bensalah, P. Gredin, G. Patriarche, D. Vivien, and M. Mortier, “Synthesis and optical characterizations of Yb-doped CaF2 ceramics,” Opt. Mater. 31(5), 750–753 (2009). [CrossRef]

59.

T. Toepfer, J. Neukum, J. Hein, and M. Siebold, “Very-large-scale DPSS lasers are coming,” Laser Focus World 46(10), 64–67 (2010).

60.

T. Südmeyer, C. Kränkel, C. R. E. Baer, O. H. Heckl, C. J. Saraceno, M. Golling, R. Peters, K. Petermann, G. Huber, and U. Keller, “High-power ultrafast thin disk laser oscillators and their potential for sub-100- femtosecond pulse generation,” Appl. Phys. B 97(2), 281–295 (2009). [CrossRef]

61.

U. Buenting, H. Sayinc, D. Wandt, U. Morgner, and D. Kracht, “Regenerative thin disk amplifier with combined gain spectra producing 500 μJ sub 200 fs pulses,” Opt. Express 17(10), 8046–8050 (2009). [CrossRef] [PubMed]

62.

J. Neuhaus, D. Bauer, J. Zhang, A. Killi, J. Kleinbauer, M. Kumkar, S. Weiler, M. Guina, D. H. Sutter, and T. Dekorsy, “Subpicosecond thin-disk laser oscillator with pulse energies of up to 25.9 microjoules by use of an active multipass geometry,” Opt. Express 16(25), 20530–20539 (2008). [CrossRef] [PubMed]

63.

P. Russbueldt, T. Mans, J. Weitenberg, H. D. Hoffmann, and R. Poprawe, “Compact diode-pumped 1.1 kW Yb:YAG Innoslab femtosecond amplifier,” Opt. Lett. 35(24), 4169–4171 (2010). [CrossRef] [PubMed]

64.

Y. Zaouter, I. Martial, N. Aubry, J. Didierjean, C. Hönninger, E. Mottay, F. Druon, P. Georges, and F. Balembois, “Direct amplification of ultrashort pulses in μ-pulling-down Yb:YAG single crystal fibers,” Opt. Lett. 36(5), 748–750 (2011). [CrossRef] [PubMed]

65.

S. Ricaud, D. N. Papadopoulos, A. Pellegrina, F. Balembois, P. Georges, A. Courjaud, P. Camy, J. L. Doualan, R. Moncorgé, and F. Druon, “High-power diode-pumped cryogenically cooled Yb:CaF₂ laser with extremely low quantum defect,” Opt. Lett. 36(9), 1602–1604 (2011). [CrossRef] [PubMed]

66.

http://cmdo.cnrs.fr/ and http://www.lasur-femto.cnrs.fr/

OCIS Codes
(140.3280) Lasers and laser optics : Laser amplifiers
(140.3380) Lasers and laser optics : Laser materials
(140.3480) Lasers and laser optics : Lasers, diode-pumped
(320.7090) Ultrafast optics : Ultrafast lasers
(140.3615) Lasers and laser optics : Lasers, ytterbium

ToC Category:
Laser Materials

History
Original Manuscript: May 18, 2011
Revised Manuscript: June 16, 2011
Manuscript Accepted: June 23, 2011
Published: June 30, 2011

Virtual Issues
Advances in Optical Materials (2011) Optical Materials Express
(2011) Advances in Optics and Photonics

Citation
Frédéric Druon, Sandrine Ricaud, Dimitris N. Papadopoulos, Alain Pellegrina, Patrice Camy, Jean Louis Doualan, Richard Moncorgé, Antoine Courjaud, Eric Mottay, and Patrick Georges, "On Yb:CaF2 and Yb:SrF2: review of spectroscopic and thermal properties and their impact on femtosecond and high power laser performance [Invited]," Opt. Mater. Express 1, 489-502 (2011)
http://www.opticsinfobase.org/ome/abstract.cfm?URI=ome-1-3-489


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  66. http://cmdo.cnrs.fr/ and http://www.lasur-femto.cnrs.fr/

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