Continuous-wave mode-locked solid-state lasers with enhanced spatial hole burning
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- Braun, B., Weingarten, K.J., Kärtner, F.X. et al. Appl. Phys. B (1995) 61: 429. doi:10.1007/BF01081271
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We systematically investigate the difference between both actively and passively mode-locked lasers with Gain-at-the-End (GE) and Gain-in-the-Middle (GM) at the example of Nd:YLF lasers. The GE laser generates pulse widths approximately three times shorter than a comparable GM cavity. This is due to enhanced Spatial Hole Burning (SHB) which effectively flattens the saturated gain and allows for a larger lasing bandwidth compared to a GM cavity. We first investigate enhanced SHB by measuring the cw mode spectrum, where we have observed that the mode spacing in GE cavities depends primarily on the crystal length. This was also confirmed for a Nd:LSB crystal, where the pump absorption length was significantly shorter than the crystal length. In mode-locked operation, pulse widths of 4 ps for passive mode locking and 5 ps for active mode locking are demonstrated with GE cavities, compared to 11 ps for passive and 17 ps for active mode locking with GM cavities. Additionally, the time-bandwidth product for the GE cavity is approximately twice the ideal product for a sech2 pulse shape and cannot be improved by dispersion compensation alone, while the GM cavity has nearly ideal time-bandwidth-limited performance. The results for the GM cavity compare well to existing theories taking into account the added effect of pump-power-dependent gain bandwidth which increases the bandwidth of Nd: YLF from 360 to > 500 GHz. In a following paper  (called Part II) a rigorous theoretical treatment of the effects due to SHB will be presented.