RP Photonics logo
RP Photonics
Consulting Software Encyclopedia Buyer's Guide

Short address: rpp-con.com

Dr. Paschotta, the founder of RP Photonics, supports your R & D with his deep expertise. Save time and money with efficient support!

Short address: rpp-soft.com

Powerful simulation software for fiber lasers and amplifiers, resonator design, pulse propagation and multilayer coating design.

Short address: rpp-enc.com

The famous Encyclopedia of Laser Physics and Technology provides a wealth of high-quality scientific and technical information.

Short address: rpp-bg.com

In the RP Photonics Buyer's Guide, you easily find suppliers for photo­nics products. As a supp­lier, you can profit from enhanced entries!

Learn on lasers and photonics every day!
VL logo part of the

Laser Crystals

<<<  |  >>>  |  Feedback

Buyer's Guide

The ideal place to find suppliers for photonics products: high-quality information, simple and fast, respects your privacy!

66 suppliers for laser crystals are listed.

Among them:

Altechna UAB

a wide range of laser crystals like Ti:Sapphire, Nd:KGW, Yb:KGW and Yb:KYW, Yb:YAG, Yb:CaF2, Tm:YLF and others directly from stock at our e-shop www.instockoptics.com

Photon LaserOptik

a specialist for the highly precise processing of laser crystals, nonlinear crystals, and other optical elements

Your are not yet listed? Get your entry!

Ask RP Photonics for any advice on laser gain media, e.g. for finding optimized parameters (dimensions, doping concentration, etc.) for your laser device. You can also obtain independent advice for the selection of the most suitable product.

Definition: transparent crystals with laser-active dopants, used as laser gain media

German: Laserkristalle

Categories: lasers, optical materials

How to cite the article; suggest additional literature

Laser crystals are typically single crystals (monocrystalline material) which are used as gain media for solid-state lasers. In most cases, they are doped with either trivalent rare earth ions or transition metal ions. These ions enable the crystal to amplify light at the laser wavelength via stimulated emission, when energy is supplied to the crystal via absorption of pump light (→ optical pumping).

Compared with doped glasses, crystals usually have higher transition cross sections, a smaller absorption and emission bandwidth, a higher thermal conductivity, and possibly birefringence. (The article on laser crystals versus glasses discusses the differences in more detail.) In some cases, monocrystalline laser materials may be replaced with ceramic gain media, which have a fine polycrystalline structure.

Common Laser-active Dopants

The most frequently used laser-active rare earth ions and host media together with some typical emission wavelengths are shown in the following table:

Table 1: Common rare earth ions in laser-active crystals.

Ion Common host crystals Important emission wavelengths
neodymium (Nd3+) Y3Al5O12 (YAG), YAlO3 (YALO), YVO4 (yttrium vanadate), YLiF4 (YLF), tungstates (KGd(WO4)2, KY(WO4)2) 1064, 1047, 1053, 1342, 946 nm
ytterbium (Yb3+) YAG, tungstates (e.g. KGW, KYW, KLuW), YVO4, borates (BOYS, GdCOB), apatites (SYS), sesquioxides (Y2O3, Sc2O3) 1030, 1020–1070 nm
erbium (Er3+) YAG, YLF 2.9, 1.6 μm
thulium (Tm3+) YAG 1.9–2.1 μm
holmium (Ho3+) YAG 2.1, 2.94 μm
cerium (Ce3+) YLF, LiCAF, LiLuF, LiSAF, and similar fluorides 0.28–0.33 μm

The following tables lists common transition-metal doped crystals:

Table 2: Common transition metal ions in laser-active crystals.

Ion Common host crystals Important emission wavelengths
titanium (Ti3+) sapphire 650–1100 nm
chromium (II) (Cr2+) zinc chalcogenides such as ZnS, ZnSe, and ZnSxSe1−x 2–3.4 μm
chromium (III) (Cr3+) Al2O3 (ruby), LiSrAlF6 (LiSAF), LiCaAlF6 (LiCAF), LiSrGaF6 (LiSGAF) 0.8–0.9 μm
chromium (IV) (Cr4+) YAG, MgSiO4 (forsterite) 1.35–1.65 μm (YAG), 1.1–1.37 μm (forsterite)

These tables contain only the most common host crystals; many others exist, which are less frequently used.

Important Properties of Host Crystals

The host crystal is much more than just a means to fix the laser-active ions at certain positions in space. A number of properties of the host material are important:

It is apparent that different applications lead to very different requirements on laser gain media. For this reason, a broad range of different crystals are used, and making the right choice is essential for constructing lasers with optimum performance.

Common Crystalline Laser Host Media

There is a wide range of crystalline media, which can be grouped according to important atomic constituents and crystalline structures. Some important groups of crystals are:

Laser Crystals with Integrated Saturable Absorber

A few laser crystal materials have been demonstrated where some saturable absorber material is incorporated for passive Q switching of a laser. For example, Cr4+ ions can be incorporated into such Nd-doped crystals for emission in the 1-μm spectral region. This has been tried with Cr:Nd:YAG and Cr:Nd:YVO4, for example.

With that concept, one does not need an additional saturable absorber crystal, so that one may make more compact Q-switched laser setups with lower internal parasitic losses. However, unwanted side effects may also occur, such as obtaining unwanted valence states of the involved ions or energy transfers. In addition, some flexibility is lost in experiments if one cannot try out absorbers with different thickness or doping concentration, for example, without exchanging the laser crystal itself.

Geometries of Laser Crystals

Different geometric forms can be used in lasers:

Bulk Properties

For a given dopant and host medium, the doping concentration is the most important parameter. Other issues of interest are the uniformity of doping (influencing the tendency for quenching), the level of impurities (e.g. unwanted other rare earth ions), and the optical homogeneities. Several of these factors influence the absorption and scattering losses of the material, and/or the strength of thermal lensing.

Of course, it is very desirable that a given crystal quality is produced consistently, although different laser designs can have a different sensitivity to material parameters.

Optimization of Geometry and Parameters

Which geometry, dopant and doping concentration of the gain medium are most advantageous depend on several factors. The available pump source (type of laser diode or lamp) and the envisaged pumping arrangement are important factors, but the material itself also has some influence. For example, titanium–sapphire lasers have to be pumped with high intensities, for which the form of a transversely cooled rod, operated with relatively small pump and laser beam diameter, is more appropriate than e.g. a thin disk. As another example, Q-switched lasers reach a higher population density in the upper laser level and are therefore more sensitive to quenching effects and energy transfer processes; therefore, a lower doping density is often appropriate for these devices. For high-power lasers, lower doping densities are often used in order to limit the density of heat generation, although thin-disk lasers work best with highly doped crystals. Many laser products do not reach the full performance potential because such details have not been properly worked out.

Optical Surfaces

Those surfaces which are passed by the laser beam are normally either oriented at Brewster's angle or have an anti-reflection coating. Even AR-coated crystals are often slightly tilted against the beam so as to prevent back-reflections staying in the laser resonator. This is important for, e.g., mode-locked lasers and tunable single-frequency lasers.

A high surface quality is of course important. Specifications of surface flatness are often better than λ / 10. This helps to avoid both scattering losses and wavefront distortions which can degrade the laser's beam quality. In addition, scratch and dig specifications (cosmetic surface quality) limit the density of small-scale surface defects; they may read e.g. “80–50” for medium quality mass production, or “10–5” for particularly demanding laser applications. Proper surface treatment also influences the damage threshold, which is important e.g. for high-energy pulse amplifiers. Finally, a high degree of end face parallelism can be important for avoiding changes of beam direction in a crystal.


[1]A. A. Kaminskii, “Laser crystals and ceramics: recent advances”, Laser Photon. Rev. 1 (2), 93 (2007)
[2]A. A. Kaminskii, Laser Crystals, Springer, New York (1981)
[3]R. C. Powell, Physics of Solid-State Laser Materials, AIP Press, Springer (1998)
[4]W. Koechner, Solid-State Laser Engineering, 6th edn., Springer, Berlin (2006)
[5]F. Träger (ed.), Handbook of Lasers and Optics, Springer, Berlin (2007)

(Suggest additional literature!)

See also: gain media, laser crystals versus glasses, doped insulator lasers, rare-earth-doped gain media, transition-metal-doped gain media, rod lasers, slab lasers, thin-disk lasers, Spotlight article 2007-02-09

Dr. R. Paschotta

This encyclopedia is authored by Dr. Rüdiger Paschotta, the founder and executive of RP Photonics Consulting GmbH. Contact this distinguished expert in laser technology, nonlinear optics and fiber optics, and find out how his technical consulting services (e.g. product designs, problem solving, independent evaluations, or staff training) and software could become very valuable for your business!

How do you rate this article?

Your general impression: don't know poor satisfactory good excellent
Technical quality: don't know poor satisfactory good excellent
Usefulness: don't know poor satisfactory good excellent
Readability: don't know poor satisfactory good excellent

Found any errors? Suggestions for improvements? Do you know a better web page on this topic?

Spam protection: (enter the value of 5 + 8 in this field!)

If you want a response, you may leave your e-mail address in the comments field, or directly send an e-mail.

If you like our website, you may also want to get our newsletters!

cover of print encyclopedia

The Encyclopedia of Laser Physics and Technology is also available in the form of a two-volume book. Maybe you would enjoy reading it also in that form! The print version has a carefully designed layout and can be considered a must-have for any institute library, laser research group, or laser company. You may order the print version via Wiley-VCH.


RP Fiber Power – the versatile Fiber Optics Software

An Amazing Tool

RP Fiber Power software

This amazing tool is extremely helpful for the development of passive and active fiber devices.


Watch our quick video tour!

Single-mode and Multi­mode Fibers


Calculate mode properties such as

  • amplitude distributions (near field and far field)
  • effective mode area
  • effective index
  • group delay and chromatic dispersion

Also calculate fiber coupling efficiencies; simulate effects of bending, nonlinear self-focusing or gain guiding on beam propagation, higher-order soliton propagation, etc.

Arbitrary Index Profiles

A fiber's index profile may be more complicated than just a circle:

special fibers

Here, we "printed" some letters, translated this into an index profile and initial optical field, propagated the light over some distance and plotted the output field – all automated with a little script code.

Fiber Couplers, Double-clad Fibers, Multicore Fibers, …

fiber devices

Simulate pump absorption in double-clad fibers, study beam propagation in fiber couplers, light propagation in tapered fibers, analyze the impact of bending, cross-saturation effects in amplifiers, leaky modes, etc.

Fiber Amplifiers

fiber amplifier

For example, calculate

  • gain and saturation characteristics (for continuous or pulsed operation)
  • energy transfers in erbium-ytterbium-doped amplifier fibers
  • influence of quenching effects, amplified spontaneous emission etc.

in single amplifier stages or in multi-stage amplifier systems, with double-clad fibers, etc.

Fiber-optic Telecom Systems

eye diagram

For example,

  • analyze dispersive and nonlinear signal distortions
  • investigate the impact of amplifier noise
  • optimize nonlinear management and the placement of amplifiers

Find out in detail what is going on in such a system!

Fiber Lasers

fiber laser

For example, analyze and optimize the

  • power conversion efficiency
  • wavelength tuning range
  • Q switching dynamics
  • femtosecond pulse generation with mode locking

for lasers based on double-clad fiber, with linear or ring resonator, etc.

Ultrafast Fiber Lasers and Amplifiers

fiber laser

For example, study

  • pulse formation mechanisms
  • impact of nonlinearities and chromatic dispersion
  • parabolic pulse amplification
  • feedback sensitivity
  • supercontinuum generation

Apply any sequence of elements to your pulses!

… and even Bulk Devices

regenerative amplifier

For example, study

  • Q switching dynamics
  • mode-locking behavior
  • impact of nonlinearities and chromatic dispersion
  • influence of a saturable absorber
  • chirped-pulse amplification
  • regenerative amplification

RP Fiber Power is an extremely versatile tool!

Mode Solver

fiber modes

For example, calculate

  • amplitude and intensity profiles
  • effective mode areas
  • cut-off wavelengths
  • propagation constants
  • group velocities
  • chromatic dispersion

All this is calculated with high efficiency!

Beam Propagation

beam propagation

Propagate optical field with arbitrary wavefronts through fibers. These may be asymmetric, bent, tapered, exhibit random disturbances, etc.

See our demo video for numerical beam propagation.

Laser-active Ions

level scheme

Work with the standard gain model, or define your own level scheme!

Can include different ions, energy transfers, upconversion and quenching effects, complicated pumping schemes, etc.

Multiple Pump and Signal Waves, ASE

optical channels

Define multiple pump and signal waves and many ASE channels – each one with its own transverse intensity profile, loss coefficient etc.

The power calculations are highly efficient and reliable.

Simple Use and High Flexibility Combined

For simpler tasks, use convenient forms:

signal parameters

Script code is automatically generated and can then be modified by the user. A powerful script language gives you an unparalleled flexibility!

High-quality Documentation and Competent Support

The carefully prepared comprehensive documentation includes a PDF manual and an interactive online help system.

Competent technical support is provided: the developer himself will help you and make sure that any problem is solved!

Our support is like included technical consulting.

Boost your competence, efficiency and creativity!

  • Stop fishing in the dark! Develop a clear quantitative understanding of your devices.
  • Explore the effects of possible design changes on your desk.
  • That way, get most efficient in the lab.
  • Find optimized solutions efficiently, minimizing time to market.
  • Get new ideas by playing with your models.

Efficiency and success of
R & D are not a matter of chance.

See our detailed description with many case studies!

Contact us to get a quotation!

– Show all banners –

– Get your own banner! –