Laser pumping

Laser pumping

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Encyclopedia
Laser pumping is the act of energy transfer from an external source into the gain medium of a laser
Laser
A laser is a device that emits light through a process of optical amplification based on the stimulated emission of photons. The term "laser" originated as an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation...

. The energy is absorbed in the medium, producing excited state
Excited state
Excitation is an elevation in energy level above an arbitrary baseline energy state. In physics there is a specific technical definition for energy level which is often associated with an atom being excited to an excited state....

s in its atoms. When the number of particles in one excited state exceeds the number of particles in the ground state
Ground state
The ground state of a quantum mechanical system is its lowest-energy state; the energy of the ground state is known as the zero-point energy of the system. An excited state is any state with energy greater than the ground state...

 or a less-excited state, population inversion
Population inversion
In physics, specifically statistical mechanics, a population inversion occurs when a system exists in state with more members in an excited state than in lower energy states...

 is achieved. In this condition, the mechanism of stimulated emission
Stimulated emission
In optics, stimulated emission is the process by which an atomic electron interacting with an electromagnetic wave of a certain frequency may drop to a lower energy level, transferring its energy to that field. A photon created in this manner has the same phase, frequency, polarization, and...

 can take place and the medium can act as a laser
Laser
A laser is a device that emits light through a process of optical amplification based on the stimulated emission of photons. The term "laser" originated as an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation...

 or an optical amplifier
Optical amplifier
An optical amplifier is a device that amplifies an optical signal directly, without the need to first convert it to an electrical signal. An optical amplifier may be thought of as a laser without an optical cavity, or one in which feedback from the cavity is suppressed...

. The pump power must be higher than the lasing threshold
Lasing threshold
The lasing threshold is the lowest excitation level at which a laser's output is dominated by stimulated emission rather than by spontaneous emission. Below the threshold, the laser's output power rises slowly with increasing excitation. Above threshold, the slope of power vs. excitation is orders...

 of the laser.

The pump energy is usually provided in the form of light
Light
Light or visible light is electromagnetic radiation that is visible to the human eye, and is responsible for the sense of sight. Visible light has wavelength in a range from about 380 nanometres to about 740 nm, with a frequency range of about 405 THz to 790 THz...

 or electric current
Electric current
Electric current is a flow of electric charge through a medium.This charge is typically carried by moving electrons in a conductor such as wire...

, but more exotic sources have been used, such as chemical
Chemical reaction
A chemical reaction is a process that leads to the transformation of one set of chemical substances to another. Chemical reactions can be either spontaneous, requiring no input of energy, or non-spontaneous, typically following the input of some type of energy, such as heat, light or electricity...

 or nuclear reaction
Nuclear reaction
In nuclear physics and nuclear chemistry, a nuclear reaction is semantically considered to be the process in which two nuclei, or else a nucleus of an atom and a subatomic particle from outside the atom, collide to produce products different from the initial particles...

s.

Pumping cavities


A laser pumped with an arc lamp or a flashlamp is usually pumped through the lateral wall of the lasing medium, which is often in the form of a crystal
Crystal
A crystal or crystalline solid is a solid material whose constituent atoms, molecules, or ions are arranged in an orderly repeating pattern extending in all three spatial dimensions. The scientific study of crystals and crystal formation is known as crystallography...

 rod containing a metallic impurity or a glass
Glass
Glass is an amorphous solid material. Glasses are typically brittle and optically transparent.The most familiar type of glass, used for centuries in windows and drinking vessels, is soda-lime glass, composed of about 75% silica plus Na2O, CaO, and several minor additives...

 tube containing a liquid dye, in a condition known as "side-pumping." To use the lamp's energy most efficiently, the lamps and lasing medium are contained in a reflective cavity that will redirect most of the lamp's energy into the rod or dye cell.

In the most common configuration, the gain medium is in the form of a rod located at one focus
Focus (geometry)
In geometry, the foci are a pair of special points with reference to which any of a variety of curves is constructed. For example, foci can be used in defining conic sections, the four types of which are the circle, ellipse, parabola, and hyperbola...

 of a mirrored cavity, consisting of an elliptical cross-section perpendicular to the rod's axis. The flashlamp is a tube located at the other focus of the ellipse. Often the mirror's coating is chosen to reflect wavelength
Wavelength
In physics, the wavelength of a sinusoidal wave is the spatial period of the wave—the distance over which the wave's shape repeats.It is usually determined by considering the distance between consecutive corresponding points of the same phase, such as crests, troughs, or zero crossings, and is a...

s that are shorter than the lasing output while absorbing or transmitting wavelengths that are the same or longer, to minimize thermal lensing. In other cases an absorber for the longer wavelengths is used. Often, the lamp is surrounded by a cylindrical jacket called a flow tube. This flow tube is usually made of a glass that will absorb unsuitable wavelengths, such as ultraviolet, or provide a path for cooling water which absorbs infrared. Often, the jacket is given a dielectric coating
Dielectric mirror
A dielectric mirror is a type of a mirror composed of multiple thin layers of dielectric material, typically deposited on a substrate of glass or some other optical material. By careful choice of the type and thickness of the dielectric layers, one can design an optical coating with specified...

 that reflects unsuitable wavelengths of light back into the lamp. This light is absorbed and some of it is re-emitted at suitable wavelengths. The flow tube also serves to protect the rod in the event of a violent lamp failure.

Smaller ellipses create fewer reflections, (a condition called "close-coupling"), giving higher intensity in the center of the rod. For a single flashlamp, if the lamp and rod are equal diameter, an ellipse that is twice as wide as the height is the usually the most efficient at imaging the light into the rod. The rod and the lamp are relatively long to minimize the effect of losses at the end faces and to provide a sufficient length of gain medium. Longer flashlamps are also more efficient at transferring electrical energy into light, due to higher impedance
Electrical impedance
Electrical impedance, or simply impedance, is the measure of the opposition that an electrical circuit presents to the passage of a current when a voltage is applied. In quantitative terms, it is the complex ratio of the voltage to the current in an alternating current circuit...

. However, if the rod is too long in relation to its diameter a condition called "prelasing" can occur, depleting the rod's energy before it can properly build up. Rod ends are often antireflection coated or cut at Brewster's angle
Brewster's angle
Brewster's angle is an angle of incidence at which light with a particular polarization is perfectly transmitted through a transparent dielectric surface, with no reflection. When unpolarized light is incident at this angle, the light that is reflected from the surface is therefore perfectly...

 to minimize this effect. Flat mirrors are also often used at the ends of the pump cavity to reduce loss.

Variations on this design use more complex mirrors composed of overlapping elliptical shapes, to allow multiple flashlamps to pump a single rod. This allows greater power, but are less efficient because not all of the light is correctly imaged into the rod, leading to increased thermal losses. These losses can be minimized by using a close-coupled cavity. This approach may allow more symmetric pumping, increasing beam quality, however.

Another configuration uses a rod and a flashlamp in a cavity made of a diffuse reflecting material, such as spectralon
Spectralon
Spectralon is a fluoropolymer, which has the highest diffuse reflectance of any known material or coating over the ultraviolet, visible, and near-infrared regions of the spectrum...

 or powdered barium sulfate
Barium sulfate
Barium sulfate is the inorganic compound with the chemical formula BaSO4. It is a white crystalline solid that is odorless and insoluble in water. It occurs as the mineral barite, which is the main commercial source of barium and materials prepared from it...

. These cavities are often circular or oblong, as focusing the light is not a primary objective. This doesn't couple the light as well into the lasing medium, since the light makes many reflections before reaching the rod, but often requires less maintenance than metalized reflectors. The increased number of reflections is compensated for by the diffuse medium's higher reflectivity: 99% compared to 97% for a gold mirror. This approach is more compatible with unpolished rods or multiple lamps.

Parasitic modes occur when reflections are generated in directions other than along the length of the rod, which can use up energy that would otherwise be available to the beam. This can be a particular problem if the barrel of the rod is polished. Cylindrical laser rods support whispering gallery
Whispering gallery
A whispering gallery is a gallery beneath a dome, vault, or enclosed in a circular or elliptical area in which whispers can be heard clearly in other parts of the building....

 modes due to total internal reflection
Total internal reflection
Total internal reflection is an optical phenomenon that happens when a ray of light strikes a medium boundary at an angle larger than a particular critical angle with respect to the normal to the surface. If the refractive index is lower on the other side of the boundary and the incident angle is...

 between the rod and the cooling water, which reflect continuously around the circumference of the rod. Light pipe modes can reflect down the length of the rod in a zig-zag path. If the rod has an antireflection coating, or is immersed in a fluid that matches its refractive index
Refractive index
In optics the refractive index or index of refraction of a substance or medium is a measure of the speed of light in that medium. It is expressed as a ratio of the speed of light in vacuum relative to that in the considered medium....

, it can dramatically reduce these parasitic reflections. Likewise, if the barrel of the rod is rough ground (frosted), or grooved, internal reflections can be dispersed.

Pumping with a single lamp tends to focus most of the energy on one side, worsening the beam profile. It is common for rods to have a frosted barrel, to diffuse the light, providing a more even distribution of light throughout the rod. This allows more energy absorption throughout the gain medium for a better transverse mode
Transverse mode
A transverse mode of a beam of electromagnetic radiation is a particular electromagnetic field pattern of radiation measured in a plane perpendicular to the propagation direction of the beam...

. A frosted flow tube or diffuse reflector, while leading to lowered transfer efficiency, helps increase this effect, improving the gain
Gain
In electronics, gain is a measure of the ability of a circuit to increase the power or amplitude of a signal from the input to the output. It is usually defined as the mean ratio of the signal output of a system to the signal input of the same system. It may also be defined on a logarithmic scale,...

.

Laser host materials are chosen to have a low absorption; only the dopant
Dopant
A dopant, also called a doping agent, is a trace impurity element that is inserted into a substance in order to alter the electrical properties or the optical properties of the substance. In the case of crystalline substances, the atoms of the dopant very commonly take the place of elements that...

 absorbs. Therefore any light at frequencies not absorbed by the doping will go back into the lamp and reheat the plasma, shortening lamp life.

Flashlamp pumping


Flashlamps
Flashtube
A flashtube, also called a flashlamp, is an electric arc lamp designed to produce extremely intense, incoherent, full-spectrum white light for very short durations. Flashtubes are made of a length of glass tubing with electrodes at either end and are filled with a gas that, when triggered, ionizes...

 were the earliest energy source for lasers. They are used for high pulsed energies in both solid-state and dye lasers. They produce a broad spectrum of light, causing most of the energy to be wasted as heat in the gain medium. Flashlamps also tend to have a short lifetime. The first laser consisted of a helical flashlamp surrounding a ruby rod.

Quartz
Fused quartz
Fused quartz and fused silica are types of glass containing primarily silica in amorphous form. They are manufactured using several different processes...

 flashlamps are the most common type used in lasers, and, at low energies or high repetition rates, can operate at temperatures as high as 900 °C. Higher average powers or repetition rates require water cooling. The water usually has to wash across not only the arc length of the lamp, but across the electrode portion of the glass as well. Water-cooled flashlamps are usually manufactured with the glass shrunken around the electrode to allow direct cooling of the tungsten
Tungsten
Tungsten , also known as wolfram , is a chemical element with the chemical symbol W and atomic number 74.A hard, rare metal under standard conditions when uncombined, tungsten is found naturally on Earth only in chemical compounds. It was identified as a new element in 1781, and first isolated as...

. If the electrode is allowed to heat much more than the glass thermal expansion
Thermal expansion
Thermal expansion is the tendency of matter to change in volume in response to a change in temperature.When a substance is heated, its particles begin moving more and thus usually maintain a greater average separation. Materials which contract with increasing temperature are rare; this effect is...

 can crack the seal.

Lamp lifetime depends primarily on the energy regime used for the particular lamp. Low energies give rise to sputter, which can remove material from the cathode and redeposit it on the glass, creating a darkened, mirrored appearance. The life expectancy at low energies can be quite unpredictable. High energies cause wall ablation
Ablation
Ablation is removal of material from the surface of an object by vaporization, chipping, or other erosive processes. This occurs in spaceflight during ascent and atmospheric reentry, glaciology, medicine, and passive fire protection.-Spaceflight:...

, which not only gives the glass a cloudy appearance, but also weakens it structurally and releases oxygen
Oxygen
Oxygen is the element with atomic number 8 and represented by the symbol O. Its name derives from the Greek roots ὀξύς and -γενής , because at the time of naming, it was mistakenly thought that all acids required oxygen in their composition...

, affecting pressure, but at these energy levels the life expectancy can be calculated with a fair amount of accuracy.

Pulse duration can also affect lifetime. Very long pulses can strip large amounts of material from the cathode, depositing it on the walls. With very short pulse durations, care must be taken to ensure that the arc is centered in the lamp, far away from the glass, preventing serious wall ablation. External triggering is not usually recommended for short pulses. Simmer voltage triggering is usually used for extremely fast discharges, as are used in dye lasers, and often combine this with a “pre-pulse technique”, where as a small flash is initiated just milliseconds before the main flash, to preheat the gas for a faster rise time
Rise time
In electronics, when describing a voltage or current step function, rise time refers to the time required for a signal to change from a specified low value to a specified high value...

.

Dye lasers sometimes use “axial pumping,” which consists of a hollow, annular shaped flashlamp, with the outer envelope mirrored to reflect suitable light back to the center. The dye cell is placed in the middle, providing a more even distribution of pumping light, and more efficient transfer of energy. The hollow flashlamp also has lower inductance
Inductance
In electromagnetism and electronics, inductance is the ability of an inductor to store energy in a magnetic field. Inductors generate an opposing voltage proportional to the rate of change in current in a circuit...

 than a normal flashlamp, which provides a shorter flash discharge. Rarely, a “coaxial” design is used for dye lasers, which consists of a normal flashlamp surrounded by an annular shaped dye cell. This provides better transfer efficiency, eliminating the need for a reflector, but diffraction losses cause a lower gain.

The output spectrum of a flashlamp is primarily a product of its current density
Current density
Current density is a measure of the density of flow of a conserved charge. Usually the charge is the electric charge, in which case the associated current density is the electric current per unit area of cross section, but the term current density can also be applied to other conserved...

. After determining the "explosion energy" for the pulse duration, (the amount of energy that will destroy it in one to ten flashes), and choosing a safe energy level for operation, the balance of voltage and capacitance can be adjusted to center the output anywhere from the near infrared to the far ultraviolet. Low current densities result from the use of very high voltage and low current. This produces broadened spectral lines with the output centered in the near-IR, and is best for pumping infrared lasers such as Nd:YAG
Nd:YAG laser
Nd:YAG is a crystal that is used as a lasing medium for solid-state lasers. The dopant, triply ionized neodymium, typically replaces yttrium in the crystal structure of the yttrium aluminium garnet , since they are of similar size...

 and erbium:YAG. Higher current densities broaden the spectral lines to the point where they begin to blend together, and continuum
Continuum (theory)
Continuum theories or models explain variation as involving a gradual quantitative transition without abrupt changes or discontinuities. It can be contrasted with 'categorical' models which propose qualitatively different states.-In physics:...

 emission is produced. Longer wavelengths reach saturation levels at lower current densities than shorter wavelengths, so as current is increased the output center will shift toward the visual spectrum, which is better for pumping visible light lasers, such as ruby
Ruby laser
A ruby laser is a solid-state laser that uses a synthetic ruby crystal as its gain medium. The first working laser was a ruby laser made by Theodore H. "Ted" Maiman at Hughes Research Laboratories on May 16, 1960....

. At this point, the gas becomes nearly an ideal “greybody radiator.” Even higher current densities will produce blackbody radiation, centering the output in the ultraviolet.

Xenon
Xenon
Xenon is a chemical element with the symbol Xe and atomic number 54. The element name is pronounced or . A colorless, heavy, odorless noble gas, xenon occurs in the Earth's atmosphere in trace amounts...

 is used extensively because of its good efficiency, although krypton
Krypton
Krypton is a chemical element with the symbol Kr and atomic number 36. It is a member of Group 18 and Period 4 elements. A colorless, odorless, tasteless noble gas, krypton occurs in trace amounts in the atmosphere, is isolated by fractionally distilling liquified air, and is often used with other...

 is often used for pumping neodymium
Neodymium
Neodymium is a chemical element with the symbol Nd and atomic number 60. It is a soft silvery metal that tarnishes in air. Neodymium was discovered in 1885 by the Austrian chemist Carl Auer von Welsbach. It is present in significant quantities in the ore minerals monazite and bastnäsite...

 doped laser rods. This is because the spectral lines in the near-IR range better match the absorption lines of neodymium, giving krypton better transfer efficiency even though its overall power output is lower. This is especially effective with Nd:YAG, which has a narrow absorption profile. Pumped with krypton, these lasers can achieve up to twice the output power obtainable from xenon. Spectral line emission is usually chosen when pumping Nd:YAG with krypton, but since all of xenon's spectral lines miss the absorption bands of Nd:YAG, when pumping with xenon the continuum emission is used.

Arc lamp pumping


Arc lamps are used for pumping rods that can support continuous operation, and can be made any size and power. Typical arc lamps operate at a voltage high enough to maintain the certain current level for which the lamp was designed to operate. This is often in the range of 10 to 50 amps. Due to their very high pressures, arc lamps require specially designed circuitry for start up, or “striking” the arc. Striking usually occurs in three phases. In the triggering phase, an extremely high voltage pulse from the ”series triggering” transformer creates a spark streamer between the electrodes, but the impedance is too high for the main voltage to take over. A “boost voltage” phase is then initiated, where a voltage that is higher than the voltage drop
Voltage drop
Voltage drop is the reduction in voltage in the passive elements of an electrical circuit. Voltage drops across conductors, contacts, connectors and source internal resistances are undesired as they reduce the supplied voltage while voltage drops across loads and other electrical and electronic...

 between the electrodes is driven through the lamp, until the gas is heated to a plasma
Plasma (physics)
In physics and chemistry, plasma is a state of matter similar to gas in which a certain portion of the particles are ionized. Heating a gas may ionize its molecules or atoms , thus turning it into a plasma, which contains charged particles: positive ions and negative electrons or ions...

 state. When impedance becomes low enough, the “current control” phase takes over, where as the main voltage begins to drive the current to a stable level.

Arc lamp pumping takes place in a cavity similar to a flashlamp pumped laser, with a rod and one or more lamps in a reflector cavity. The exact shape of the cavity is often dependant on how many lamps are used. The main difference is in the cooling. Arc lamps need to be cooled with water, ensuring that the water washes beyond the glass, and across the electrode connectors as well. This requires the use of deionized water with a resistivity
Resistivity
Electrical resistivity is a measure of how strongly a material opposes the flow of electric current. A low resistivity indicates a material that readily allows the movement of electric charge. The SI unit of electrical resistivity is the ohm metre...

 of at least 200 kilohms, to keep from shorting out the circuit and corroding the electrodes through electrolysis
Electrolysis
In chemistry and manufacturing, electrolysis is a method of using a direct electric current to drive an otherwise non-spontaneous chemical reaction...

. Water is typically channeled through a flow tube at a rate of 4 to 10 liters per minute.

Arc lamps come in nearly all of the noble gas
Noble gas
The noble gases are a group of chemical elements with very similar properties: under standard conditions, they are all odorless, colorless, monatomic gases, with very low chemical reactivity...

 types, including xenon
Xenon
Xenon is a chemical element with the symbol Xe and atomic number 54. The element name is pronounced or . A colorless, heavy, odorless noble gas, xenon occurs in the Earth's atmosphere in trace amounts...

, krypton
Krypton
Krypton is a chemical element with the symbol Kr and atomic number 36. It is a member of Group 18 and Period 4 elements. A colorless, odorless, tasteless noble gas, krypton occurs in trace amounts in the atmosphere, is isolated by fractionally distilling liquified air, and is often used with other...

, argon
Argon
Argon is a chemical element represented by the symbol Ar. Argon has atomic number 18 and is the third element in group 18 of the periodic table . Argon is the third most common gas in the Earth's atmosphere, at 0.93%, making it more common than carbon dioxide...

, neon
Neon
Neon is the chemical element that has the symbol Ne and an atomic number of 10. Although a very common element in the universe, it is rare on Earth. A colorless, inert noble gas under standard conditions, neon gives a distinct reddish-orange glow when used in either low-voltage neon glow lamps or...

, and helium
Helium
Helium is the chemical element with atomic number 2 and an atomic weight of 4.002602, which is represented by the symbol He. It is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, non-toxic, inert, monatomic gas that heads the noble gas group in the periodic table...

, which all emit spectral lines that are very specific to the gas. The output spectrum of an arc lamp is mostly dependant on the gas type, being narrow band spectral lines very similar to a flashlamp operated at low current densities. The output is highest in the near infrared, and are usually used to pump infrared lasers such as Nd:YAG.

External laser pumping


A laser
Laser
A laser is a device that emits light through a process of optical amplification based on the stimulated emission of photons. The term "laser" originated as an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation...

 of a suitable type can be used to pump another laser. The pump laser's narrow spectrum gives it much more efficient energy transfer than flashlamps. Diode lasers pump solid state lasers
Diode pumped solid state laser
Diode-pumped solid-state lasers are solid-state lasers made by pumping a solid gain medium, for example, a ruby or a neodymium-doped YAG crystal, with a laser diode....

 and liquid dye laser
Dye laser
A dye laser is a laser which uses an organic dye as the lasing medium, usually as a liquid solution. Compared to gases and most solid state lasing media, a dye can usually be used for a much wider range of wavelengths. The wide bandwidth makes them particularly suitable for tunable lasers and...

s. A ring laser
Ring laser
A ring laser is a laser in which the laser cavity has the shape of a ring. Light in ring lasers has two possible directions of propagation: clockwise and counter-clockwise....

 design is often used, especially in dye lasers. The ring laser uses three or more mirrors to reflect light in a circular path. This helps eliminate the standing wave
Standing wave
In physics, a standing wave – also known as a stationary wave – is a wave that remains in a constant position.This phenomenon can occur because the medium is moving in the opposite direction to the wave, or it can arise in a stationary medium as a result of interference between two waves traveling...

 generated by most Fabry–Pérot resonators, leading to a better use of the gain medium's energy.

Other optical pumping methods


Microwave
Microwave
Microwaves, a subset of radio waves, have wavelengths ranging from as long as one meter to as short as one millimeter, or equivalently, with frequencies between 300 MHz and 300 GHz. This broad definition includes both UHF and EHF , and various sources use different boundaries...

s or radiofrequency EM radiation can be used to excite gas lasers.

The sun
Sun
The Sun is the star at the center of the Solar System. It is almost perfectly spherical and consists of hot plasma interwoven with magnetic fields...

 has been used to pump lasers.

Electrical pumping


Electric glow discharge
Electric glow discharge
An electric glow discharge is a plasma formed by the passage of current at 100 V to several kV through a gas, often argon or another noble gas. It is found in products such as neon lamps and plasma-screen televisions, and is used in plasma physics and analytical chemistry.-Basic operating...

 is common in gas laser
Gas laser
A gas laser is a laser in which an electric current is discharged through a gas to produce coherent light. The gas laser was the first continuous-light laser and the first laser to operate "on the principle of converting electrical energy to a laser light output...

s. For example, in the helium-neon laser
Helium-neon laser
A helium–neon laser or HeNe laser, is a type of gas laser whose gain medium consists of a mixture of helium and neon inside of a small bore capillary tube, usually excited by a DC electrical discharge.- History of HeNe laser development:...

 the electrons from the discharge collide with the helium
Helium
Helium is the chemical element with atomic number 2 and an atomic weight of 4.002602, which is represented by the symbol He. It is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, non-toxic, inert, monatomic gas that heads the noble gas group in the periodic table...

 atoms, exciting them. The excited helium atoms then collide with neon
Neon
Neon is the chemical element that has the symbol Ne and an atomic number of 10. Although a very common element in the universe, it is rare on Earth. A colorless, inert noble gas under standard conditions, neon gives a distinct reddish-orange glow when used in either low-voltage neon glow lamps or...

 atoms, transferring energy. This allows an inverse population of neon atoms to build up.

Electric current
Electric current
Electric current is a flow of electric charge through a medium.This charge is typically carried by moving electrons in a conductor such as wire...

 is typically used to pump laser diodes and semiconductor crystal lasers (for example germanium)

Electron beams pump free electron laser
Free electron laser
A free-electron laser, or FEL, is a laser that shares the same optical properties as conventional lasers such as emitting a beam consisting of coherent electromagnetic radiation which can reach high power, but which uses some very different operating principles to form the beam...

s and some excimer laser
Excimer laser
An excimer laser is a form of ultraviolet laser which is commonly used in the production of microelectronic devices , eye surgery, and micromachining....

s.

Gas dynamic pumping



Gas dynamic laser
Gas dynamic laser
Gas Dynamic Laser is laser based on differences in relaxation velocities of molecular vibrational states.The laser medium gas has such properties that an energetically lower vibrational state relaxes faster than a higher vibrational state,...

s are constructed using the supersonic
Supersonic
Supersonic speed is a rate of travel of an object that exceeds the speed of sound . For objects traveling in dry air of a temperature of 20 °C this speed is approximately 343 m/s, 1,125 ft/s, 768 mph or 1,235 km/h. Speeds greater than five times the speed of sound are often...

 flow of gases, such as carbon dioxide
Carbon dioxide
Carbon dioxide is a naturally occurring chemical compound composed of two oxygen atoms covalently bonded to a single carbon atom...

, to excite the molecules past threshold. The gas is pressurized and then heated to as high as 1400 Kelvin
Kelvin
The kelvin is a unit of measurement for temperature. It is one of the seven base units in the International System of Units and is assigned the unit symbol K. The Kelvin scale is an absolute, thermodynamic temperature scale using as its null point absolute zero, the temperature at which all...

s. The gas is then allowed to expand rapidly through specially shaped nozzles to a very low pressure. This expansion occurs at supersonic velocities, sometimes as high as mach 4
Mach number
Mach number is the speed of an object moving through air, or any other fluid substance, divided by the speed of sound as it is in that substance for its particular physical conditions, including those of temperature and pressure...

. The hot gas has many molecules in the upper excited states, while many more are in the lower states. The rapid expansion causes adiabatic cooling
Adiabatic process
In thermodynamics, an adiabatic process or an isocaloric process is a thermodynamic process in which the net heat transfer to or from the working fluid is zero. Such a process can occur if the container of the system has thermally-insulated walls or the process happens in an extremely short time,...

, which reduces the temperature to as low as 300 K. This reduction in temperature causes the molecules in the upper and lower states to relax their equalibrium to a value that is more appropriate for the lower temperature. However, the molecules in the lower states relax very quickly, while the upper state molecules take much longer to relax. Since a good quantity of molecules remain in the upper state, a population inversion is created, which often extends for quite a distance downstream. Continuous wave outputs as high as 100 kilowatts have been obtained from dynamic carbon dioxide lasers.

Similar methods of supersonic expansion are used to adiabatically cool carbon monoxide
Carbon monoxide
Carbon monoxide , also called carbonous oxide, is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas that is slightly lighter than air. It is highly toxic to humans and animals in higher quantities, although it is also produced in normal animal metabolism in low quantities, and is thought to have some normal...

 lasers, which are then pumped either through chemical reaction, electrical, or radio frequency
Radio frequency
Radio frequency is a rate of oscillation in the range of about 3 kHz to 300 GHz, which corresponds to the frequency of radio waves, and the alternating currents which carry radio signals...

 pumping. The adiabatic cooling replaces bulky and costly cryogenic cooling with liquid nitrogen, increasing the carbon monoxide laser's efficiency. Lasers of this type have been able to produce outputs as high as a gigawatt, with efficiencies as high as 60%.

Other types


Chemical reaction
Chemical reaction
A chemical reaction is a process that leads to the transformation of one set of chemical substances to another. Chemical reactions can be either spontaneous, requiring no input of energy, or non-spontaneous, typically following the input of some type of energy, such as heat, light or electricity...

 is used as a power source in chemical laser
Chemical laser
A chemical laser is a laser that obtains its energy from a chemical reaction. Chemical lasers can achieve continuous wave output with power reaching to megawatt levels...

s. This allows for very high output powers difficult to reach by other means.

Nuclear fission
Nuclear fission
In nuclear physics and nuclear chemistry, nuclear fission is a nuclear reaction in which the nucleus of an atom splits into smaller parts , often producing free neutrons and photons , and releasing a tremendous amount of energy...

 is used in exotic nuclear pumped laser
Nuclear pumped laser
A nuclear pumped laser is a laser pumped with the energy of fission fragments. The lasing medium is enclosed in a tube lined with uranium-235 and subjected to high neutron flux in a nuclear reactor core. The fission fragments of the uranium create excited plasma with inverse population of energy...

s (NPL), directly employing the energy of the fast neutrons released in a nuclear reactor
Nuclear reactor
A nuclear reactor is a device to initiate and control a sustained nuclear chain reaction. Most commonly they are used for generating electricity and for the propulsion of ships. Usually heat from nuclear fission is passed to a working fluid , which runs through turbines that power either ship's...

.

The United States military tested an X-ray laser
X-ray laser
An X-ray laser is a device that uses stimulated emission to generate or amplify electromagnetic radiation in the near X-ray or extreme ultraviolet region of the spectrum, that is, usually on the order of several of tens of nanometers wavelength.Because of high gain in the lasing medium, short...

 pumped by a nuclear weapon
Nuclear weapon
A nuclear weapon is an explosive device that derives its destructive force from nuclear reactions, either fission or a combination of fission and fusion. Both reactions release vast quantities of energy from relatively small amounts of matter. The first fission bomb test released the same amount...

in the 1980s, but the results of the test were inconclusive and it has not been repeated.