We report the results of the investigation on a passively mode-locked Yb3+:CaGdAlO4 laser, pumped by a single transverse mode laser diode emitting 350 mW at 980 nm. This particular pump source allows efficient pumping with a nearly TEM00 beam and minimal thermal load, making the optimization of the mode-locking performance more straightforward than with higher-power multimode beams. Indeed, using a semiconductor saturable absorber mirror and extra-cavity dispersion compensation, pulses as short as 40 fs (31-nm spectrum) have been measured, tunable across 20 nm with 15-mW output power. Slightly longer Fourier-limited 46-fs pulses with 33 mW output power directly from the oscillator have been achieved, using a different saturable absorber mirror. Such overall performance, especially considering these are among the shortest pulses generated in diode-pumped ytterbium lasers, confirms the excellent qualities of Yb3+:CaGdAlO4.
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