A narrow-linewidth pulsed alexandrite laser has been greatly modified for improved spectral stability in an aircraft environment, and its operation has been evaluated in the laboratory for making water-vapor differential absorption lidar measurements. An alignment technique is described to achieve the optimum free spectral range ratio for the two étalons inserted in the alexandrite laser cavity, and the sensitivity of this ratio is analyzed. This technique drastically decreases the occurrence of mode hopping, which is commonly observed in a tunable, two-intracavity-étalon laser system. High spectral purity (>99.85%) at 730 nm is demonstrated by the use of a water-vapor absorption line as a notch filter. The effective cross sections of 760-nm oxygen and 730-nm water-vapor absorption lines are measured at different pressures by using this laser, which has a finite linewidth of 0.02 cm−1 (FWHM). It is found that for water-vapor absorption linewidths greater than 0.04 cm−1 (HWHM), or for altitudes below 10 km, the laser line can be considered monochromatic because the measured effective absorption cross section is within 1% of the calculated monochromatic cross section. An analysis of the environmental sensitivity of the two intracavity étalons is presented, and a closed-loop computer control for active stabilization of the two intracavity talons in the alexandrite laser is described. Using a water-vapor absorption line as a wavelength reference, we measure a long-term frequency drift (≈1.5 h) of less than 0.7 pm in the laboratory.
© 1994 Optical Society of AmericaFull Article | PDF Article