Generation and nonlinear propagation of ultrashort near infrared laser pulses
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By utilising a CW mode-locked Nd:YAG pump laser an experimental study of self-phase modulation (SPM) and stimulated Raman scattering (SRS) in single mode optical fibres has been conducted. The dependence of the spectral broadening due to SPM upon the launched optical power was observed to obey a linear relationship in agreement with a simple theory. A deviation from this occurred for high input powers due to the onset of stimulated Raman scattering which caused a preferential depletion of the leading edge of the pump pulse and an increased spectral broadening to the long wavelength side of the spectrum. The pulses exiting the fibre were then compressed using a pair of holographic diffraction gratings, which were able to compensate for the linear part of the frequency chirp imposed on the pulse by SPM and the 1.06 ?m pulses were reduced in duration from ~ 100 ps to approximately 4 ps by this method. By making use of Raman generation in the fibre, a synchronously pumped fibre Raman oscillator was constructed. This enabled the generation of frequency tunable (1.07 - 1.12 ?m) near infrared pulses by the method of time dispersion tuning. By incorporating two fibre grating reflectors onto the ends of the optical fibre, an all-fibre device was constructed having the potential advantages of compactness and stability. The generation of mode-locked pulses around the 1.5 jim wavelength region was accomplished with the use of a colour centre laser based upon a stabilised F2+ centre in NaC1 or a thallium centre in KCl. Both of these lasers were examined, although to date the poor quality of our NaC1 laser crystals has meant that most of the work reported here was performed with KC1:T1. This laser produced pulses of ? 20 ps duration, tunable over 1.45 - 1.55 ?m with average powers ? 200 mW. A simple experiment to observe soliton propagation of these pulses in an optical fibre was conducted and this compressed the pulses to ? 0.8 ps, although this does not represent the optimum compression that could be achieved. Using nonlinear pulse propagation in an optical fibre, the mode-locked characteristics of the colour centre laser were dramatically improved with the duration of the pulses from the laser being reduced to ? 200 fs. This enhancement was achieved by the use of a nonlinear external cavity containing the optical fibre, which reinjected the pulses back into the main laser cavity, with an increased spectral bandwidth due to SPM. It was initially thought that the explanation to this effect was due to soliton formation within the control cavity, however experimental evidence is presented here which shows that the mode-locking enhancement phenomena is in fact quite general and does not rely on dispersion in the control cavity.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy