RP Photonics logo
RP Photonics
Technical consulting services on lasers, nonlinear optics, fiber optics etc.
Profit from the knowledge and experience of a top expert!
Powerful simulation and design software.
Make computer models in order to get a comprehensive understanding of your devices!
Success comes from understanding – be it in science or in industrial development.
The famous Encyclopedia of Laser Physics and Technology – available online for free!
The ideal place for finding suppliers for many photonics products.
Advertisers: Make sure to have your products displayed here!
… combined with a great Buyer's Guide!
VLib part of the

Semiconductor Lasers

<<<  |  >>>  |  Feedback

Buyer's Guide

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

53 suppliers for semiconductor lasers are listed.

You are not yet listed? Get your entry!

Ask RP Photonics for advice concerning various types of semiconductor lasers.

Definition: lasers based on semiconductor gain media

German: Halbleiterlaser

Category: lasers

How to cite the article; suggest additional literature

Semiconductor lasers are lasers based on semiconductor gain media, where optical gain is usually achieved by stimulated emission at an interband transition under conditions of a high carrier density in the conduction band.

The physical origin of gain in a semiconductor (for the usual case of an interband transition) is illustrated in Figure 1. Without pumping, most of the electrons are in the valence band. A pump beam with a photon energy slightly above the bandgap energy can excite electrons into a higher state in the conduction band, from where they quickly decay to states near the bottom of the conduction band. At the same time, the holes generated in the valence band move to the top of the valence band. Electrons in the conduction band can then recombine with these holes, emitting photons with an energy near the bandgap energy. This process can also be stimulated by incoming photons with suitable energy. A quantitative description can be based on the Fermi–Dirac distributions for electrons in both bands.

Most semiconductor lasers are laser diodes, which are pumped with an electrical current in a region where an n-doped and a p-doped semiconductor material meet. However, there are also optically pumped semiconductor lasers, where carriers are generated by absorbed pump light, and quantum cascade lasers, where intraband transitions are utilized.

gain in a semiconductor

Figure 1: Physical origin of gain in a semiconductor.

Common materials for semiconductor lasers (and for other optoelectronic devices) are

These are all direct bandgap semiconductors; indirect bandgap semiconductors such as silicon do not exhibit strong and efficient light emission. As the photon energy of a laser diode is close to the bandgap energy, compositions with different bandgap energies allow for different emission wavelengths. For the ternary and quaternary semiconductor compounds, the bandgap energy can be continuously varied in some substantial range. In AlGaAs = AlxGa1−xAs, for example, an increased aluminum content (increased x) causes an increase in the bandgap energy.

While the most common semiconductor lasers are operating in the near-infrared spectral region, some others generate red light (e.g. in GaInP-based laser pointers) or blue or violet light (with gallium nitrides). For mid-infrared emission, there are e.g. lead selenide (PbSe) lasers (lead salt lasers) and quantum cascade lasers.

Apart from the above-mentioned inorganic semiconductors, organic semiconductor compounds might also be used for semiconductor lasers. The corresponding technology is by far not mature, but its development is pursued because of the attractive prospect of finding a way for cheap mass production of such lasers. So far, only optically pumped organic semiconductor lasers have been demonstrated, whereas for various reasons it is difficult to achieve a high efficiency with electrical pumping.

Types of Semiconductor Lasers

There is a great variety of different semiconductor lasers, spanning wide parameter regions and many different application areas:

Typical Characteristics and Applications

Some typical aspects of semiconductor lasers are:

Such characteristics have made semiconductor lasers the technologically most important type of lasers. Their applications are extremely widespread, including areas as diverse as optical data transmission, optical data storage, metrology, spectroscopy, material processing, pumping solid-state lasers (→ diode-pumped lasers), and various kinds of medical treatments.

Pulsed Output

Most semiconductor lasers generate a continuous output. Due to their very limited energy storage capability (low upper-state lifetime), they are not very suitable for pulse generation with Q switching, but quasi-continuous-wave operation often allows for significantly enhanced powers. Also, semiconductor lasers can be used for the generation of ultrashort pulses with mode locking or gain switching. The average output powers in short pulses are usually limited to at most a few milliwatts, except for optically pumped surface-emitting external-cavity semiconductor lasers (VECSELs), which can generate multi-watt average output powers in picosecond pulses with multi-gigahertz repetition rates.

Modulation and Stabilization

A particular advantage of the short upper-state lifetime is the capability of semiconductor lasers to be modulated with very high frequencies, which can be tens of gigahertz for VCSELs. This is exploited mainly in optical data transmission, but also in spectroscopy, for the stabilization of lasers to reference cavities, etc.


[1]J. V. Moloney et al., “Quantum design of semiconductor active materials: laser and amplifier applications”, Laser & Photon. Rev. 1 (1), 24 (2007)
[2]W. W. Chow and S. W. Koch, Semiconductor-Laser Fundamentals, Springer, Berlin (1999)
[3]B. E. A. Saleh and M. C. Teich, Fundamentals of Photonics, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York (1991)

(Suggest additional literature!)

See also: lasers, laser diodes, external-cavity diode lasers, broad area laser diodes, diode bars, diode stacks, edge-emitting semiconductor lasers, surface-emitting semiconductor lasers, quantum cascade lasers, mode-locked diode lasers, semiconductor optical amplifiers

In the RP Photonics Buyer's Guide, 136 suppliers for semiconductor lasers are listed.

How do you rate this article?

Click here to send us your feedback!

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!

If you like this article, share it with your friends and colleagues, e.g. via social media:


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! –