A practical in situ method is described and used for determination of the fractional thermal-loading parameter ηh in an operating diode-pumped Nd:YVO4 minilaser at 1064 nm. Readily applicable to the thermal characterization of other solid-state media, the method is based on the fact that thermally induced lensing will cause the laser oscillation to be quenched at a critical pump power whose magnitude depends on the cavity configuration, thermo-optical properties of the gain medium, and, in particular, on the value of ηh. In the experiments described here, a 0.5-mm-long coated Nd:YVO4 crystal with 3-at. % Nd concentration was used to construct the diode-pumped laser with a flat highly reflecting end mirror and an intracavity lens. For the method to be effective, the resonator was set up close to the edge of the stability range. Above the oscillation threshold, the pump power at which lasing was quenched because of the onset of the thermally induced resonator instability was measured as a function of the intracavity lens position. A numerical model that accounted for absorption saturation and pump-induced thermal lensing was then used to analyze the experimentally measured data with ηh as an adjustable parameter. The average best-fit value of ηh was determined to be 0.40 with an estimated statistical variation of 8%.
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