Compact, highly efficient, 3.0 to 3.4 μm light emitters are in demand for spectroscopic analysis and identification of chemical substances (including methane and formaldehyde), infrared countermeasures technologies, and development of advanced infrared scene projectors. The need for these light emitters can be currently addressed either by bulky solid-state light emitters with limited power conversion efficiency, or cooled Interband Cascade (IC) semiconductor lasers.
Researchers here have developed a breakthrough approach to fabrication of diode mid-IR lasers that have several advantages over IC lasers used for the Mars 2009 mission. This breakthrough is due to a novel design utilizing the strainengineered quantum-well (QW) active region and quinternary barriers, and due to optimization of device material composition and growth conditions (growth temperatures and rates). However, in their present form, these GaSb-based laser diodes cannot be directly used as a part of sensor systems. The device spectrum is too broad to perform spectroscopic analysis of gas species, and operating currents and voltages are too high.
In the current work, the emitters were fabricated as narrow-ridge waveguide index-guided lasers rather than broad stripe-gain guided multimode Fabry-Perot (FP) lasers as was done previously. These narrow-ridge waveguide mid-IR lasers exhibit much lower power consumptions, and can operate in a single spatial mode that is necessary for demonstration of single-mode distributed feedback (DBF) devices for spectroscopic applications.
These lasers will enable a new generation of compact, tunable diode laser spectrometers with lower power consumption, reduced complexity, and significantly reduced development costs. These lasers can be used for the detection of HCN, C2H2, methane, and ethane.