Date of Award

8-2016

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Legacy Department

Electrical and Computer Engineering

Committee Member

Dr. Liang Dong, Committee Chair

Committee Member

Dr. John Ballato

Committee Member

Dr. Eric Johnson

Committee Member

Dr. Lin Zhu

Abstract

The output power of fiber lasers has increased rapidly over the last decade. There are two major limiting factors, namely nonlinear effects and transverse mode instability, prohibiting the power scaling capability of fiber lasers. The nonlinear effects, originating from high optical intensity, primarily limit the peak power scaling. The mode instability, on the other hand, arises from quantum-defect driven heating, causing undesired mode coupling once the power exceeds the threshold and degradation of beam quality. The mode instability has now become the bottleneck for average output power scaling of fiber lasers.

Mode area scaling is the most effective way to mitigate nonlinear effects. However, the use of large mode area may increase the tendency to support multiple modes in the core, resulting in lower mode instability threshold. Therefore, it is critical to maintain single mode operation in a large mode area fiber. Sufficient higher order mode suppression can lead to effective single-transverse-mode propagation.

In this dissertation, we explore the feasibility of using specialty fiber to construct high power fiber lasers with robust single-mode output. The first type of fiber discussed is the resonantly-enhanced leakage channel fiber. Coherent reflection at the fiber outer boundary can lead to additional confinement especially for highly leaky HOM, leading to lower HOM losses than what are predicted by conventional finite element mothod mode solver considering infinite cladding. In this work, we conducted careful measurements of HOM losses in two leakage channel fibers (LCF) with circular and rounded hexagonal boundary shapes respectively. Impact on HOM losses from coiling, fiber boundary shapes and coating indexes were studied in comparison to simulations. This work demonstrates the limit of the simulation method commonly used in the large-mode-area fiber designs and the need for an improved approach. More importantly, this work also demonstrates that a deviation from circular fiber outer shape may be an effective method to mitigate HOM loss reduction from coherent reflection from fiber outer boundary.

In an all-solid photonic bandgap fiber, modes are only guided due to anti-resonance of cladding photonic crystal lattice. This provides strongly mode-dependent guidance, leading to very high differential mode losses, which is essential for lasing far from the gain peak and suppression of stimulated Raman scattering. We will show that all-solid photonic bandgap fibers with effective mode area of ~920μm2 can be made with excellent higher order mode suppression. We then demonstrate a 50μm-core-diameter Yb-doped all-solid photonic bandgap fiber laser. 75W output power has been generated with a diffraction-limited beam and an efficiency of 70% relative to the launched pump power. We have also experimentally confirmed that a robust single-mode regime exists near the high frequency edge of the bandgap.

It is well known that incorporation of additional smaller cores in the cladding can be used to resonantly out-couple higher-order modes from a main core to suppress higher-order-mode propagation in the main core. Using a novel design with multiple coupled smaller cores in the cladding, we further scaled up the mode area and have successfully demonstrated a single-mode photonic bandgap fiber with record effective mode area of ~2650µm2. Detailed numeric studies have been conducted for multiple cladding designs. For the optimal designs, the simulated minimum higher-order-mode losses are well over two orders of magnitudes higher than that of fundamental mode when expressed in dBs. We have also experimentally validated one of the designs. M2<1.08 across the transmission band was demonstrated.

Lowering quantum defect heating is another approach to mitigate mode instability. Highly-efficient high-power fiber lasers operating at wavelength below 1020nm are critical for tandem-pumping in >10kW fiber lasers to provide high pump brightness and low thermal loading. Using an ytterbium-doped-phosphosilicate double-clad leakage-channel fiber with ~50µm core and ~420µm cladding, we have achieved ~70% optical-to-optical efficiency at 1018nm. The much larger cladding than those in previous reports demonstrates the much lower required pump brightness, a key for efficient kW operation. The demonstrated 1018nm fiber laser has ASE suppression of ~41dB. This is higher than previous reports and further demonstrates the advantages of the fiber used. Limiting factors to efficiency are also systematically studied.

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