Stry, S., Thelen, S., Sacher, J. et al. Appl. Phys. B (2006) 85: 365. doi:10.1007/s00340-006-2348-1
We report on recent progress on external cavity diode lasers (ECDL) using a new concept of a Littman/Metcalf configuration. Within this concept one facet of the diode laser chip is used for coupling to a high quality Littman/Metcalf resonator whereas the other side of the diode laser chip emits the output beam. The alignment of the external resonator is independent from the alignment of the output beam and there is no need for any compromise in the alignment. This results in an improved behavior of the external resonator with the benefit of a drastic increase in power and single mode tuning.
We investigated this light source for high resolution spectroscopy in the field of cw-cavity ring-down spectroscopy (CRDS). The monitoring of environmental and medical gases from vehicles or human breath requires a suitable radiation source in the mid-infrared (MIR) between 3 and 5 μm that is frequency stable and can be widely tuned. Since this wavelength cannot be reached via direct emitting room temperature semiconductor lasers, additional techniques like difference frequency generation (DFG) are essential. Tunable difference frequency generation relies on high power, small linewidth, fast tunable, robust laser diode sources with excellent beam quality.
With our new compact, alignment-insensitive and robust ECDL concept, we achieved an output power of 1000 mW and an almost Gaussian shaped beam quality (M2<1.2). The coupling efficiency for optical waveguides as well as single mode fibers exceeds 70%. The wavelength is widely tunable within the tuning range of 20 nm via remote control. This laser system operates longitudinally in single mode with a mode-hop free tuning range of more than 150 GHz without current compensation and a side-mode-suppression better than 50 dB. This concept is currently realized within the wavelength regime between 750 and 1080 nm.
Our high powered Littman/Metcalf laser system was part of a MIR-light source which utilizes DFG in periodically poled lithium niobate (PPLN) crystals. At the wavelength of 3.3 μm we were able to achieve a high-resolution absorption spectrum of water with four different isotoplogues of H2O components. This application clearly demonstrates the suitability of this laser for high-precision measurements.