Lasers – Construction
Here we briefly describe how to construct a laser.
RI. Laser Cavity
A schematic diagram of a typical laser cavity is shown in Fig. 6.
R，; ~ 98 95% ~ 99.5%21
； M1, M2 – mirrors, intensity reflectivity of M1 ~ 99.5% or higher. ； M2 is also called output coupler (OC), intensity reflectivity typically 98% ， 90%.
； Characteristics: Laser output
(1) M1, M2 very flat ~，/20 (， - laser wavelength).
Pop. Inv. (2) M1, M2 are aligned such that they are “very” parallel. (see exercise).
M1M2 or OC
(1) M1, M2 - multi-layer dielectric coating mirrors.
(2) Mirror in your bedroom, reflectivity?
(3) Sometimes concave mirrors are used. (Why?)
II. Gain (Amplified)
M1OC Fig. 2
； Represents an atom with an excited electron in level A. Light inside the cavity has gain (i.e.
number of photons increases in time) if there is population inversion and the reflectivity of OC
is high enough. Several round trips after photon p1 is emitted, this process results in a lot of
photons (see exercise).
Remark: Stimulated emissions shown in Fig. 8 will be lost through the walls of cavity.
III. Characteristics of Laser Light
； “Single” frequency (or wavelength), also
known as monochromatic.
； Coherent: photons are “vibrating” in phase.
； Beam profile: Gaussian, i.e. Fig. 4 Z
light intensity as a function of z is 22I (z)；z/2？ , where I is a constant, I(z)？Ie0o
and ？ is the width of the profile.
0 ZAnother way to visualize this property is depicted
in Fig. 11 showing the electric field of light wave as
Za function of z.
E(Z) M1M2=OC Fig. 6
Remark: Laser beam intensity could have other distributions, an example is depicted in Fig. 12.
Again the electric field of the light wave (at a certain instant) is shown as a function of z.
； Small beam divergence
；3 Typical value of ； is ~ 0.5 ： 10 rad.
Example: 5 Mean earth-moon distance = 3.8 ： 10 km ；35 Beam radius on moon = 0.5 ： 10 ： 3.8 ： 10 km 2 = 1.9 ： 10 km
~ 200 km (quite small!)
IV. Gain (Active) Medium
Gain means that signal got amplified (the “A” in laser). Substance, inside the laser cavity, that achieves population inversion and thus leads to laser action. It could be: ； gas
V. Classification of Lasers
Lasers can be classified according the following different schemes.
(A) By active media + ； Gas laser, e.g. He-Ne laser, Ar laser, CO laser, N laser, HCN laser. 22
； Dye laser - active medium: dye molecules in liquid solvent (sometimes in solids also).
； Solid state laser - crystal, or glass, doped with impurities, e.g. ruby laser, Ti:sapphire laser,
(B) By mode of operation
； pulsed (see exercise)
(C ) By pumping and
laser levels fast fast
； 3-level laser pump3transition ； 4-level laser pump
laser2Ground state transitiontransitionGround state
gr. state Fig. 8 gr. state
VI. Examples 3-level4-level
In this Section, we give examples of specific lasers and briefly describe their characteristics.
VI.1 He-Ne laser
He+Neglass tubeLaser output
High voltage ~ 1000V Fig. 9
He pressure ~ 1 Torr (1 Torr is a pressure of 1 mm Hg).
Ne pressure ~ 0.1 Torr; wavelength 632.8 nm (red) is the most common output. ；3；3 Output power 0.5 ： 10 W to 25 ： 10 W.
Remark: Recently, orange, yellow, and green outputs of wavelengths 612.0, 594.0, and 543.5 nm, ；3respectively, are also available, typical output power ~ 0.2 ： 10 W.
VI.2 Pulsed CO laser [Transverse Excited Atmospheric (TEA) CO laser] 22
M1spark plugsFig. 10
； Laser cavity filled with CO gas at atmospheric pressure. 2
； Spark plugs create charges to facilitate discharge between the two flat electrodes.
； The electrodes have to be very smooth - avoid local discharge. ；9 ； Pulse width ~1 ns = 10 sec.
； Wavelength 10.6 (m, that is far in the infrared.
Remark: similarly, a pulsed N laser (quite common) can be constructed. A N laser lases at 22
337.1 nm (in the utra-violet spectrum).
Exercise: How long does it take for an electron to travel a distance of ~1 cm under 20,000 V?
VI.3 Dye laser
outputTunning plate Blue-green
； Pump sources - usually blue, green, violet, ultraviolet lasers.
； Dichroic mirror - allow ~90% of pumping laser light to pass through. But its reflectivity
for the lasing wavelength (mostly yellow or read) is ~99.5%.
； Dye continuously flowing - avoid heating up.
； Tunable – insert, into the cavity, a plate (or wedge) that is transparent, changes cavity
property slightly, and thus changes the laser wavelength.
； Disadvantage: dye degradation upon prolonged irradiation by the intense pumping light,
has to be changed ~ every 2 weeks, which is very laborious. ；14 ； Short pulse generation, ~10 sec. pulse width can be achieved (see exercise). Remark:
For the generation of this type of short pulses, the dye cell has to be replaced by a dye jet.
The reason for using a dye jet is as follows:
A short pulse becomes boarder after passing a piece of thick (~ cm) material (say glass, water,
VI.4 Ti:sapphire laser
+ Ti:sapphire means sapphire crystal doped with Ti impurities. A Ti:sapphire laser is a dye laser with the dye cell replaced by a piece of Ti:sapphire.
Focused pump beam focusedTi:sapphire crystal (red in color) Ti: sapphire crystal (red in color)Fig. 13 pumping light
The reason for choosing sapphire is that its thermal conductivity is good compared to other non-
； Advantage - active medium suffers no degradation.
； Can be pumped “harder”, and hence higher output. By “harder” we mean that the crystal
is pumped by a higher blue-green laser power.
； Tuning range ~700 ， 1000 nm.
VI.8 X-ray laser
In recent year, there is intense interest in x-ray lasers. However, it is not easy of make a x-ray laser. One of the key problems is that there is no mirror that can reflect x-ray efficiently.
Note: Brewster’s Angle (Window)
Fig. 17 n and n are refractive indices of media 1 and 2, respectively. Double-headed arrows 12
indicate direction of the electric field (E) of the optical radiation. ； indicates that E is pointing into
Reasons for using Brewster windows in a laser cavity are:
； Low loss in each trip through the window.
； Output laser light is polarized, which is convenient for many optical applications.
About the author:
Gain or Amplified, population inversion, stimulated emissions, excitation, polarization.
Related Topics in the Syllabus:
X-rays, Energy levels, emission and absorption, Wave, polarization
Extensions (from the syllabus):
Bring out ideas: The Brewster’s Angle
The angle of incidence at which the refracted light and reflected light are at right angles to each other is called the Brewster’s Angle.
; What type of Ruby Laser and He-Ne laser belong to? (Solid laser and gaseous laser resp.)
; How population inversion is obtained in Ruby Laser and He-Ne laser?
; What is the application of laser? (welding, surgery, holography, printing, optical
communication, reading of digital reading, compact disc etc.)
Points for further discussion:
1. Suppose that in every trip, stimulated emissions occur 4 times as indicated by the diagram for explaining gain in the lecture notes. The intensity reflectivities of M1 and OC are 100 % and th87.5 %, respectively. What will be the number of photons at the end of the 5 trip? Assuming that
we start with one photon traveling along a direction perpendicular to the mirrors. Repeat this
exercise with the intensity reflectivity of the OC changed to 6.25 % while other parameters unchanged.
2. A laser is operated in a pulsed mode. Each pulse has an energy of 0.2 J and a pulse width of -810 sec. Calculate the instantaneous power of each laser pulse. You can assume that the pulse is rectangular in shape. Suppose the repetition rate is 10 pulses/sec, what is the average output power?
-143. A laser is producing utra-short laser pulses of 10 sec pulse width. Assume that the laser
wavelength is 790 nm. How many cycles does the optical field oscillate within the duration of the pulses. (Remark: when the laser pulse is so short, the laser output will no longer
monochromatic but have a distribution of wavelengths. For simplicity, we have assumed that it is monochromatic.)
4. Consider a light beam of 2 mm diameter travelling between
two flat mirrors whose reflecting surfaces are not exactly parallel
so that after 5 round trips, the position of the light beam deviates
1 mm from its original position as shown Fig. 14 (solid line starting
position, dashed line position after 5 round trips). The distance
between the two reflecting surfaces of the mirrors is 1.0 meter. Fig. 14 Find the angle between the two mirrors. Assume that the angle
between the two mirrors is much smaller than one degree and
during the first single trip, the light ray is perpendicular to one of
5. (a) Consider a laser for measuring the distant between Hong Kong and the a spot on the moon where a set of corner cubes are located. The laser is operated in pulsed mode at a -9wavelength of 532 nm. The pulse width of the output pulses is 10 sec. What is the resolution of
the distance measurement? (Resolution is just speed of light times pulse width). Suppose that the 7-3peak power of the laser pulses is 10 W and the beam divergence is 0.5x10 radian. What would
be the power density (per unit area) of the laser pulse on the surface of the moon. Assume that the laser light does not suffer attenuation after passing through the atmosphere.
2 (b) Suppose that the surface area of each corner cube is 4 cm(and there are 100 corner
cubes), and assume that the intensity reflectivity of the corner cube is 90%, find the power density of the portion the light that get back to the earth for (i) neglect diffraction of light wave and (ii) consider also diffraction effect.
(c) A light bulb is consuming 100 W of electrical power. Suppose that 20% of the power that it consumes is converted to light power. The light bulb is at a distance of 10 km from you.
Compare the power density that you observe due to the light bulb and the power density of part (b). Again you may assume that the light passing through the air does not attenuate. 5Given: The distance between the moon and the earth is 3.80x10 km.
6. A Nd:YAG laser is operated in a pulsed mode. The peak power of the laser radiation of 81.064 (m wavelength is 3x10 W. The laser beam diameter is 2 mm. That is, you can assume the laser energy is uniformly distributed inside a beam of diameter 2 mm. Furthermore, you can -8assume that the laser pulse is rectangular in shape and has a width of 0.5x10 sec. Compute the
electric field of the EM wave at peak power. Repeat the calculation if the beam diameter is 0.25 mm. Compare these values with a typical lab situation: the electric field between the plates of a parallel plate capacitor with plate separation of 1 mm and an applied voltage of 1500 V is likely to cause electrical breakdown. You will find the following information useful:
2-1222 The energy density of EM wave is (1/2)！E. ！ = 8.85x10 C/(N.m). You need not use the oo7wavelength in this calculation. Usually, an electric field that exceeds 10 V/m can readily create
; In medical uses, X-ray photography is made with the human body between X ray source and
a film as close to his body as possible. Try to find the information about General Principles of
using X ray in medical purpose. It can be used to observe bone structure and soft organs like
stomach, liver, brain, blood clearly. Is there any instruction and preparation? ; Three acronyms, CAT, MRI, and PET, are now commonly heard in hospital. Try to discuss
Related web sites:
o St. Paul’s Lasik Centre
This site contains information about LASIK service.
o Laser Refractive Centre (Chinese version only)
This site provides a brief introduction on LASIK.
o Demonstration, The Laser
This site introduces the laser principle with simple animation.
This site contains many hyperlinks of animations which demonstrate some
principles of physics. (Although the topics in the site are in Chinese, the contents of
the hyperlinks are in English.)
o Molecular Expressions Electricity and Magnetism – Interactive Java
Tutorials How a Compact Disc Works
This site introduces how laser is applied in reading Compact Disc (CD).