We measured small-signal gain in a cw diode-pumped Cr:LiSAF and showed that upconversion and thermal quenching of fluorescence strongly limit small-signal gain. Then we optimized the gain in a Cr:LiSAF laser pumped by two 400-mW red diodes. In Q-switched operation, this laser produced tunable nanosecond pulses between 800 and 900 nm. At 850 nm, we obtained 230-ns pulses with an energy of 6.5 μJ at a repetition rate of 10 kHz.
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