Power Scaling of Highly Compact Single-Frequency Yb-Doped Fiber Amplifiers

Abstract: Both scientific interests and industrial applications have stimulated the advance of single-frequency laser technology. The high spatial and temporal coherence of this technology has facilitated many applications such as gravitational wave detection, high-precision fiber sensors, high-resolution spectroscopy, holography, and nonlinear optical conversion. However, this is currently achieved through large footprint lasers with limited portability and mobility. Therefore, there is a need to reduce the size of these lasers into a compact format. Power performance of hundreds of watts in the near-infrared spectrum and tens of watts in the visible and UV spectra for continuous (CW) operation mode and pulse energies up to several tens of mJ in pulsed operation mode are needed. An amplification structure for single-frequency lasers that meets these requirements is the master oscillator power amplifier (MOPA). However, compactness imposes several constraints on the MOPA design. The main challenge is the limited output power of the single-frequency fiber MOPA due to the onset of stimulated Brillouin scattering (SBS) in the amplifier fiber. SBS arises from the interaction of acoustic phonons with the propagating signal wave and is converted into a frequency-shifted, backward-propagating wave. SBS is manifested through high-intensity pulses propagating in the backward direction, which can be very harmful for optical components and the seed laser itself. Hence, the suppression of SBS is crucial to the power optimization of the MOPA. This thesis therefore focuses on investigating different SBS suppression techniques that fit a compact MOPA design. More specifically, this is implemented by studying the efficiency of the strain distribution technique applied to the amplifier fiber and the use of custom and commercial highly Yb- doped fibers both in CW and pulse operating MOPAs. Using highly Yb-doped fibers presents challenges with respect to the composition of the fiber material and in high- power operation that can have undesirable degradational effects, such as photodarkening and thermal load generation, and these have been investigated and discussed in this thesis. As a result of the different mitigation approaches, output power approaching 100 W in CW mode operation and pulse energies near mJ in pulse mode operation are demonstrated in only one amplification stage, showing the feasibility of a MOPA design with high performance and a small footprint. This may facilitate many applications in the visible and UV spectral ranges that require mobility and portability.