Experimental investigation of Risken–Nummedal–Graham–Haken laser instability in fiber ring lasers
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It has been suggested (by Pessina et al. in 1997) that the observed spontaneous mode beating of erbium-doped-fiber ring lasers can be explained as the multimode instability described in 1968 by Risken and Nummedal and by Graham and Haken (the RNGH instability), which is based on Rabi-splitting-induced gain. If true, this would constitute the first ever example of this instability in an actual experiment. We test the hypothesis through a quantitative experimental investigation. We demonstrate that there is indeed a clear, marked onset of the instability, a fact that went unnoticed in all previous experiments because it is very close to the lasing threshold. We intentionally raise cavity loss to better separate onset of lasing and of instability. We obtain quantitative information on the instability onset. An interpretation as the predicted second threshold is reasonable provided inhomogeneous gain line broadening is taken into account. We also observe that instability above its onset exists only intermittently; this may hint at a subcritical bifurcation and noise-driven transitions. In any event, the RNGH mechanism is present, if not in a pure form.
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