An optical beam combiner now under development would make it possible to use the outputs of multiple single-mode laser diodes to pump a neodymium: yttrium aluminum garnet (Nd:YAG) non-planar ring oscillator (NPRO) laser while ensuring that the laser operates at only a single desired frequency. Heretofore, an Nd:YAG NPRO like the present one has been pumped by a single multimode laser-diode beam delivered via an optical fiber. It would be desirable to use multiple pump laser diodes to increase reliability beyond that obtainable from a single pump laser diode. However, as explained below, simplistically coupling multiple multimode laser-diode beams through a fiber-optic combiner would entail a significant reduction in coupling efficiency, and lasing would occur at one or more other frequencies in addition to the single desired frequency.
Figure 1 schematically illustrates the principle of operation of a laser-diodepumped Nd:YAG NPRO. The laser beam path is confined in a Nd:YAG crystal by means of total internal reflections on the three back facets and a partial-reflection coating on the front facet. The wavelength of the pump beam — 808 nm — is the wavelength most strongly absorbed by the Nd:YAG crystal. The crystal can lase at a wavelength of either 1,064 nm or 1,319 nm — which one depending on the optical coating on the front facet. A thermal lens effect induced by the pump beam enables stable lasing in the lowest-order transverse electromagnetic mode (the TEM00 mode). The frequency of this laser is very stable because of the mechanical stability of the laser crystal and the unidirectional nature of the lasing. The unidirectionality is a result of the combined effects of (1) a Faraday rotation induced by an externally applied magnetic field and (2) polarization associated with non-normal incidence and reflection on the front facet.