Femtosecond Cr⁴⁺: forsterite laser for applications in telecommunications and biophotonics
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In this thesis, the development of a femtosecond Cr⁴⁺:forsterite solid-state laser is described where the mode-locking procedure was initiated using two novel saturable absorbers. One was a GaInNAs quantum-well device and the other a quantum-dot-based saturable absorber. These devices had not previously been exploited for the generation of femtosecond pulses from a solid-state laser but in the course of this project, successful mode-locked laser operation in the femtosecond domain was demonstrated for both devices. When the GaInNAs device was incorporated in the Cr⁴⁺:forsterite laser, transform-limited pulses with durations as short as 62fs were obtained. The performance of this femtosecond laser was significantly superior to that for previous quantum-well based saturable absorbers in the 1300nm spectral region. The dynamics of the device were investigated with the aim of refining subsequent devices and to explore the potential to grow future devices for use at longer wavelengths. At the outset of my research work quantum-dot based saturable absorbers had not be used for the mode locking of solid-state lasers in the femtosecond regime. The work presented in this thesis showed that quantum-dot structures could be exploited very effectively for this purpose. This was initially achieved with the quantum-dot element being inclined at an off-normal incidence within the cavity but experimental assessment together with further development of the device allowed for implementation at normal incidence. Reliable operation of the femtosecond laser was demonstrated very convincingly where transform-limited pulses of 160fs duration were generated. Having developed practical femtosecond Cr⁴⁺:forsterite lasers, the final part of the project research was directed towards exemplar applications for a laser operating in the 1300nm spectral region. These were biophotonics experiments in which assessments of both deep tissue penetration and two-photon chromosome cutting were undertaken. This work confirmed the suitability of the 1300nm laser radiation for propagation through substantial thicknesses of biological tissue (~15cm). The demonstration of highly localised two-photon cutting of Muntjac deer chromosomes also represented a novel result because single-photon absorption could be avoided effectively and the temporal broadening of the femtosecond pulses in the delivery optics arising from group velocity dispersion around 1300nm was minimal.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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