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Laser Optics

Definition: optical elements and systems used with lasers - either in lasers or for transmitting and manipulating laser light

German: Laseroptik

Categories: general optics, lasers

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Laser optics essentially means optical elements and systems which are used with lasers – either as parts of lasers or for transmitting and manipulating laser beams or other forms of laser light.

Typical Requirements

Some typical requirements on laser optics, as compared with optics for other purposes such as imaging, are:

  • Generally, optical losses need to be minimized, particularly for components which are used within laser resonators. Highly reflecting laser errors, for example, typically have reflectivities like 99.9% or higher, so that the total parasitic losses the round-trip in a resonator often remain well below 1%.
  • The surface quality of laser mirrors, prisms etc. generally needs to be rather high, e.g. with an r.m.s. roughness below λ/10. That, however, is similar for imaging optics such as photographic objectives.
  • Particularly for use with pulsed lasers with high peak power and pulse energy (mostly Q-switched lasers), laser optics needs to have a high optical damage threshold.
  • In many cases, good performance is required only at specific optical wavelengths, i.e., at certain laser lines, which are often in the infrared spectral region. Therefore, achromatic optics are often not required. In some cases, however, one requires specified properties at multiple wavelengths, e.g. for a laser wavelength and for frequency-doubled light. Also, some lasers, e.g. ultrashort pulse lasers with particularly short pulse durations, have a substantial optical bandwidth and therefore require optics with suitable broadband properties, for example in terms of reflection bandwidth and chromatic dispersion.

Optics in Lasers

A range of passive optical components is often used in lasers:

Further, some kind of laser gain medium is required, which may for example be a laser crystal, a rare-earth doped fiber, a semiconductor gain chip (e.g. in an external-cavity diode laser or a vertical external-cavity surface-emitting laser) or a gas discharge tube.

In some cases, one requires some kind of optical modulator – for example, an acousto-optic or electro-optic modulator for Q switching or mode locking.

Optics for Laser Light

Outside a laser resonator, laser light often needs to be transported and manipulated, for which different kinds of optical components and systems can be used:

Suppliers

The RP Photonics Buyer's Guide contains 90 suppliers for laser optics. Among them:

See also: lasers, optics, laser mirrors
and other articles in the categories general optics, lasers

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