Active and passive mid-infrared photonic devices in ZnSe based materials
Macdonald, John Robert
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The work described in this thesis details the development of mid-infrared waveguide laser sources created through the fabrication of waveguide structures in Cr2+: ZnSe using ultrafast laser inscription (ULI). Current quantum cascade laser (QCL) technology in the 2 – 5 μm region offer compact and robust sources suited to use outside the laboratory but the technology does not offer the high average powers, >100 mW, and wide tuneability, 2 – 3.3 μm of Cr2+: ZnSe laser sources. The development of a Cr2+: ZnSe waveguide laser source provides an environmentally robust product with access to powers and tuneable ranges greater than that provided by QCL systems. The first phase of the investigation produced the first successful refractive index modification of ZnSe using ULI. Both positive and negative refractive index changes were achieved and utilised to fabricate a range of waveguides in ZnSe and Cr2+: ZnSe. Low loss near-infrared waveguides were demonstrated through exploitation of the positive refractive index change. Low loss mid-infrared depressed cladding waveguides were subsequently demonstrated utilising the negative refractive index change. These waveguides were characterised at wavelengths of 1928, 2300 and 3390 nm as representative of pump and signal wavelengths in Cr2+: ZnSe laser systems. Finally, the newly fabricated Cr2+: ZnSe waveguides were constructed into waveguide laser cavities and pumped with a thulium fibre laser source operating at 1928 nm. Laser operation is demonstrated in both waveguides devices at wavelengths of 2573 and 2486 nm with a maximum achieved output power of 285 mW and a slope efficiency of 45%. Furthermore, a tuneable laser source is constructed in the Littman-Metcalf configuration exhibiting a maximum tuning range of 510 nm, 2330-2840 nm, with output powers exceeding 25 mW across the full range. These waveguide laser devices offer an environmentally robust and compact source in the 2 – 3 μm region with improvements upon maximum power and tuneability ranges in current quantum cascade laser sources. The waveguide laser sources reported open the door to products offering the robust nature of QCL sources with the higher powers and 2 – 3 μm tuneability associated with current bulk Cr2+: ZnSe laser systems.