Spectroscopy and lasing of cryogenically cooled Yb, Na:CaF2
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Absorption, photoluminescence and cw-lasing properties of a novel Na+-codoped Yb3+:CaF2 laser crystal are investigated in the temperature range from 10 K to 290 K. Cryogenic cooling leads to the disappearance of the ground-state absorption in the spectral region above 1000 nm and a substantial increase of emission and absorption cross-sections. A particular advantage of the Yb3+, Na+-codoped CaF2 crystal lies in the possibility of a direct pumping in the vicinity of the zero phonon line while nearly perfectly avoiding an overlap with the stimulated emission. Further advantages of the low-temperature operation are demonstrated by achieving a close to the theoretical limit slope efficiency of 92% in a cw-laser operation with an output coupler of 28%. By seeding stretched pulses from a femtosecond Yb fiber oscillator into a cryogenically cooled DPSS Yb3+, Na+:CaF2 regenerative amplifier, we obtain >3-mJ pulses at a 1-kHz repetition rate with a spectral bandwidth exceeding 12 nm. The pulses are compressed with a single grating compressor to 173 fs as verified by SHG FROG. Shaping of the spectral amplitude of the seed and active control of the higher-order phase is shown to be crucial for obtaining sub-200-fs pulses at multi-mJ energies.