Laser power and brightness scaling, in “eye safe” atmospheric transmission windows, is driving laser system research and development. High power lasers with good beam quality, at wavelength around 2.1 µm, are necessary for optical countermeasure applications. For such applications, focusing on efficiency and compactness of the system is mandatory. In order to cope with these requirements, one must consider the use of laser diodes which emit directly in the desired spectral region. The challenge for these diodes is to maintain a good beam quality factor as the output power increases. 2 µm diodes with excellent beam quality in both axes are available with output powers of ~100 mW. Therefore, in order to reach multi-watt of average output power, broad-area single emitters and beam combining becomes relevant. Different solutions have been implemented in the 1.9 to 2 µm wavelength range, one of which is to stack multiple emitter bars reaching more than one hundred watt, while another is a fibre coupled diode module. The beam propagation factor of these systems is too high for long atmospheric propagation applications.
Here we describe preliminary results on non-coherent beam combining of 2.1 µm high power Fabry-Perot GaSb laser diodes supplied by Brolis Semiconductors Ltd. First we evaluated single mode diodes (143 mW) with good beam quality (M2 < 1.5 for slow axis and < 1.1 for fast axis). Then we characterized broad-area single emitter diodes (808 mW) with an electrical-to-optical efficiency of 19 %. The emitter width was 90 µm with a cavity length of 1.5 mm. In our experiments we found that the slow axis multimode output beam consisted of two symmetric lobes with a total full width at half maximum (FWHM) divergence angle of 25 degrees, corresponding to a calculated beam quality factor of M2 = 25. The fast axis divergence was specified to be 44 degrees, with an expected beam quality factor close to the diffraction limit, which informed our selection of collimation lenses used in the experiment. We evaluated two broadband (1.8 - 3 µm) AR coated Geltech aspheric lenses with focal lengths of 1.87 mm and 4 mm, with numerical apertures of 0.85 and 0.56, respectively, as an initial collimation lens, followed by an additional cylindrical lens of focal length 100 mm for fully collimating the slow axis. Using D-shaped gold-coated mirrors, multiple single emitter beams are stacked in the fast axis direction with the objective that the combined beam has a beam propagation factor in the stacking direction close to the beam propagation factor of the slow axis of a single emitter, e.g. M2 of 20 to 25 in both axes. We further found that the output beam of a single emitter is highly linearly polarized along the slow axis, making it feasible to implement polarization beam combining techniques to increase the beam power by a factor two while maintaining the same beam quality.
Along with full beam characterization, a power scaling strategy towards a multi-watt output power beam combining laser system will be presented.