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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.
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.
The most frequently used laser-active rare earth ions and host media together with typical emission wavelengths:
YAG, YALO, YVO, YLF, KGd(WO4)2, KY(WO4)2
1064, 1047, 1053, 1342, 946 nm
YAG, tungstates (e.g. KGW, KYW, KLuW), YVO4, borates (BOYS, GdCOB), apatites (SYS), sesquioxides (Y2O3, Sc2O3)
1030, 1020–1070 nm
2.9, 1.6 µm
2.1, 2.94 µm
YLF, LiCAF, LiLuF, LiSAF, and similar fluorides
Common transition metal ions in laser-active crystals:
chromium (II) (Cr2+)
zinc chalcogenides such as ZnS, ZnSe, and ZnSxSe1-x
chromium (III) (Cr3+)
Al2O3 (ruby), LiSrAlF6 (LiSAF), LiCaAlF6 (LiCAF), LiSrGaF6 (LiSGAF)
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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