The development of high power, pulsed fiber laser systems and their applications
Rare-earth doped silica fibers have been used for many years to create continuous-wave lasers, and Er-doped fiber amplifiers are now widely used in telecommunications. In addition, cladding pumped fiber allows the efficient conversion of multimode radiation from high power, low cost, broad-stripe semiconductor laser diodes into the single-mode emission of fiber lasers. With its broad gain bandwidth and high optical conversion efficiency, Yb-doped silica fiber represents an attractive medium for the generation and amplification of high energy ultrashort optical pulses. However, these potential advantages of Yb-doped silica fiber as a gain and nonlinear medium for mode-locked lasers and ultrashort pulse amplifiers have been less well studied, and it was not until 1999 that significant research interest first appeared in Yb-fiber chirp pulse amplifier (CPA) systems. This thesis describes the development of the first practical and stable, femtosecond, Yb-fiber oscillator, and of an Yb-fiber amplifier based CPA system (pulses ~10 μJ, <500 fs). Novel aspects of the system include the use of a high extinction ratio Electro-Optic modulator for pulse selection, and the development of a compact chirped-fiber-Bragg-grating (CFBG) pulse stretcher that provides both 2nd and 3rd order chirp compensation. Recently published theoretical results have demonstrated that the asymptotic solution for ultrashort pulses in a high gain fiber amplifier is a linearly chirped pulse, which can therefore be recompressed with a standard grating compressor. This thesis reports the first experimental comparison of nonlinear pulse evolution towards the asymptotic form using a cascaded amplifier system. The "direct amplification" system was constructed by removing the CPA stretcher grating, which also enabled the use of a less dispersive and more compact compressor. Further system development should lead to the generation of ultrashort pulses at high average power levels and >100 kHz repetition rates. Holey fiber (HF) is a recently developed technology that uses rings of air holes around a solid core to confine the optical field by average-index effects. Fibers are highly suitable for applications using nonlinear optics because of the tightly confined mode and long interaction lengths. The increased mode confinement possible using HF means that small-core, high air-fill fraction HF are an attractive nonlinear medium. Furthermore, the high index contrast in such fibers can create a strong (anomalous) waveguide contribution to the dispersion, and such HFs can have anomalous dispersion at wavelengths <1.3 μm, where conventional fiber has normal dispersion. Therefore HFs can support solitons in new wavelength bands. This thesis reports the first demonstration of linear dispersion compensation, soliton transmission, and visible continuum generation seeded by a 1.06 μm Yb-fiber source. In addition, an experimental study is reported that used HF seeded from a Ti:Sapphire laser to generate continuum in distinct transverse spatial modes of a HF. Numerical simulations suggested that the observed enhancement in UV generation from a higher order mode could be due to differences in the dispersion profiles of the fundamental and higher order transverse modes. Finally, the development of a novel source of <200 fs pulses, continuously tuneable in wavelength from 1.06-1.33 μm, based on the soliton self-frequency-shift principle, is described. The source was constructed from a diode-pumped Yb-doped HF amplifier, and the Yb-fiber oscillator described above. The diode pump power controlled the output wavelength.