We have performed a series of experiments demonstrating the use of a vertical-cavity surface-emitting laser for nonlinear spectroscopy on the cesium D2 transition at 852 nm wavelength. Due to the high modulation efficiency of the VCSEL sufficiently strong modulation sidebands at 9.2 GHz frequency can be produced by direct modulation of the laser injection current. Using, the carrier and one of the modulation sidebands coherent population trapping (CPT) resonances in a buffered cesium vapor can be prepared with linewidths of only 60 Hz. For application of these narrow resonances to precision magnetometry we find a sensitivity of 10 pT in 0.3 s integration time. For the use of our setup as a frequency reference a relative stability of 1 · 10-11 / √τ is predicted. In both applications of CPT resonances the use of VCSELs as light sources helps to build compact and reliable devices.
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