Raman fiber lasers have been proposed as potential candidates for scaling beyond the power limitations imposed on near diffraction-limited rare-earth doped fiber lasers. One limitation is the modal instability (MI) and we explore the physics of this phenomenon in Raman fiber amplifiers (RFAs). By utilizing the conservation of number of photons and conservation of energy in the absence of loss, the 3 × 3 governing system of nonlinear equations describing the pump and the signal modal content are decoupled and solved analytically for cladding-pumped RFAs. By comparing the extracted signal at MI threshold for the same step index-fiber, it is found that the MI threshold is independent of the length of the amplifier or whether the amplifier is co-pumped or counter-pumped; dictated by the integrated heat load along the length of fiber. We extend our treatment to gain-tailored RFAs and show that this approach is of limited utility in suppressing MI. Finally, we formulate the physics of MI in core-pumped RFAs where both pump and signal interferences participate in writing the time-dependent index of refraction grating.
© 2016 Optical Society of America
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