Abstract

We describe a low-cost, compact, and efficient Cr3+:LiCaAlF6 (Cr:LiCAF) laser that is broadly tunable in the near infrared (746–887 nm) and blue/ultraviolet (375–433 nm) regions of the optical spectrum. The pump source is a 660 nm single-mode-diode with 145 mW of output power. A melt-grown Cr:LiCAF crystal with an extremely high figure of merit above 2000 was used as the gain medium. This enabled the construction of a high-Q-cavity with continuous wave (cw) lasing thresholds as low as 3 mW, slope efficiencies as high as 54%, and output powers up to 63 mW. The stored intracavity power levels were above 30 W. By placing a beta-barium-borate crystal at a second intracavity focus, we could obtain tunable cw blue/ultraviolet radiation with output powers up to 3.5 mW around 400 nm. When mode-locked using a saturable Bragg reflector around 800 nm, the Cr:LiCAF laser produced 95 fs pulses with average powers of 33 mW and peak powers of 3.58 kW at a repetition rate of 85.5 MHz. Extracavity second harmonic generation enables generation of femtosecond pulses around 400 nm. These results demonstrate the possibility to grow Cr:LiCAF crystals with passive losses below 0.15% per cm, which enables construction of low-cost and complexity systems that are pumped only with one low-power single-mode-diode.

© 2012 Optical Society of America

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