There have recently been several studies of the performance of laser frequency stabilization using spectral holes in solids, instead of an external cavity, as a frequency reference. Here an analytical theory for Pound-Drever-Hall laser frequency stabilization using spectral hole-burning is developed. The interaction between the atomic medium and the phase modulated light is described using a linearized model of the Maxwell-Bloch equations. The interplay between the carrier and modulation sidebands reveals significant differences from the case of locking to a cavity. These include a different optimum modulation index, an optimum sample absorption, and the possibility to lock the laser in an inherent linear frequency drift mode. Spectral holes in solids can be permanent or transient. For the materials normally used, the dynamics and time scales of transient holes often depend on population relaxation processes between ground state hyperfine levels. These relaxation rates can be very different for different solid state materials. We demonstrate, using radio-frequency pumping, that the hyperfine population dynamics may be controlled and tailored to give optimum frequency stabilization performance. In this way also materials with initially non-optimum performance can be used for stabilization. The theoretical predictions regarding the inherent linear frequency drift is compared to experimental data from a dye laser stabilized to a spectral hole in a Pr3+:Y2SiO5 crystal.
© 2007 Optical Society of America
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