We present efficient and robust Kerr-lens mode locking (KLM) of a diode-pumped Cr:LiSAF laser using a gain-matched output coupler (GMOC). An inexpensive, battery-powered 660 nm single-spatial-mode diode was used as the pump source. GMOC enhances the effective self-amplitude modulation depth by reducing the gain-filtering effect in broadband KLM operation to provide significant improvement in efficiency and robustness. Pulsing can be initiated without careful cavity alignment and is sustained for hours. 13 fs pulses with an average power of 25 mW have been generated using only 120 mW of pump power. The corresponding pulse energy and peak power is 200 pJ and 15 kW for the 126 MHz repetition rate cavity. Optical-to-optical conversion efficiency of the system is 21%, which represents an order of magnitude improvement in reported efficiencies for such diode-pumped ultrashort-pulse KLM Cr:LiSAF lasers. The obtainable pulse width is currently limited by the dispersion bandwidth of the available optics and can be potentially reduced to below 7 fs.
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