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Laser Crystals

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Laser gain material can be single crystal, semiconductor, ceramic or dye. Among them single crystal (monocrystalline material) laser gain material is the best because it has higher transition cross sections, a smaller absorption and emission bandwidth, a higher thermal conductivity, and possibly birefringence. In most cases, they are doped with either trivalent rare earth ions or transition metal ions.

Common Crystalline Laser Host Media

There is a wide range of crystalline media, which can be grouped according to their atomic constituents and crystalline structures.

- garnets such as Y3Al5O12 (YAG), Gd3Ga5O12 (GGG), and Gd3Sc2Al3O12 (GSGG): hard and chemically inert materials, optical isotropic, with high thermal conductivity

- sapphire (Al2O3) (e.g. for titanium–sapphire lasers) and aluminates such as YAlO3 (YALO, YAP) for neodymium doping: high hardness and thermal conductivity, anisotropic

- sesquioxides such as Y2O3, Sc2O3: isotropic, high hardness and thermal conductivity

- vanadates such as YVO4 and GdVO4: very high laser cross sections of Nd3+, anisotropic

- fluorides, e.g. YLiF4 (YLF): good UV transparency, birefringence, large energy storage capability of Nd:YLF; also LiCAF, LiLuF, LiSAF as chromium-doped broadband gain media

- silicates, e.g. MgSiO4 (forsterite): broad gain bandwidth monoclinic double tungstates such as KGd(WO4)2 (KGW) and KY(WO4)2 (KYW): combination of relatively high Yb3+ laser cross sections, large gain bandwidth, and high thermal conductivity

- disordered tetragonal double tungstates such as NaGd(WO4)2 (NGW) and NaY(WO4)2 (NYW): particularly large gain bandwidth of ytterbium chalcogenides such as ZnS or ZnSe for mid-infrared lasers

Laser Crystals with Integrated Saturable Absorber: A few laser crystal materials have been demonstrated where some saturable absorber material is incorporated for passive Q switching of a laser. For example, Cr4+ ions can be incorporated into such Nd-doped crystals for emission in the 1-µm spectral region. This has been tried with Cr:Nd:YAG and Cr:Nd:YVO4, for example.

Common Laser-active Dopants

The most frequently used laser-active rare earth ions and host media together with typical emission wavelengths:

neodymium (Nd3+)
YAG, YALO, YVO, YLF, KGd(WO4)2, KY(WO4)2
1064, 1047, 1053, 1342, 946 nm

ytterbium (Yb3+)
YAG, tungstates (e.g. KGW, KYW, KLuW), YVO4, borates (BOYS, GdCOB), apatites (SYS), sesquioxides (Y2O3, Sc2O3)
1030, 1020–1070 nm

erbium (Er3+)
YAG, YLF
2.9, 1.6 µm

thulium (Tm3+)
YAG
1.9–2.1 µm

holmium (Ho3+)
YAG
2.1, 2.94 µm

cerium (Ce3+)
YLF, LiCAF, LiLuF, LiSAF, and similar fluorides
0.28–0.33 µm

Common transition metal ions in laser-active crystals:

titanium (Ti3+)
sapphire
650–1100 nm

chromium (II) (Cr2+)
zinc chalcogenides such as ZnS, ZnSe, and ZnSxSe1-x
2–3.4 µm

chromium (III) (Cr3+)
Al2O3 (ruby), LiSrAlF6 (LiSAF), LiCaAlF6 (LiCAF), LiSrGaF6 (LiSGAF)
0.8–0.9 µm

chromium (IV) (Cr4+)
YAG, MgSiO4 (forsterite)
1.35–1.65 µm (YAG), 1.1–1.37 µm (forsterite)

These are only the most common host crystals; many others exist, which are less frequently used. More laser crystals

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