PhD Thesis Defenses

PhD Thesis Defense: Energy scaling of infrared nanosecond optical parametric oscillators and amplifiers based on Rb:KTiOPO4

High-energy, narrowband, nanosecond pulsed mid-infrared sources centred on 2 μm are requiredin applications in remote sensing, standoff detection and pollution monitoring using LIDARs.Currently, space-borne LIDAR missions are under development by major space agencies aroundthe world for active measurements of the atmospheric gas constituents and their dynamics. Thespectral range around 2 μm is one of the windows of operation for these instruments. Opticalparametric oscillators (OPOs) and amplifiers (OPAs) operating at 2 μm are often used as pumpsources for cascaded down-conversion schemes to enable generation of wavelengths deeper intothe mid-infrared. In order to fulfil these purposes, they are required to have high-energy outputwith good overall efficiency, while maintaining a narrowband or tailored spectrum. Moreover, forspace-based instruments, the radiation hardness of the parametric sources needs to be assessed.The central objectives of this thesis were the scaling of the energy and efficiency of 2 μm basedOPOs and OPAs, tailoring their spectral brightness and assessing their suitability for applicationsin space-borne active gas detection systems. Specifically, we investigated OPOs and OPAs basedon periodically-poled Rb:KTiOPO4 (PPRKTP), an engineered nonlinear material which can befabricated with large optical apertures and sub-μm periodicities. One of the key limitations toenergy scaling of these devices is the laser-induced damage threshold (LIDT) of the nonlinearmaterial used. In down-conversion schemes, the devices are subject to both high intensity 1 μmand 2 μm radiation. Prior to the work in this thesis, no LIDT value at 2 μm of KTP and Rb:KTPhad been reported. Furthermore, the work in this thesis provides data on effects of different dosageof gamma radiation on the optical properties of this material and the ways to mitigate the damageinduced by the ionizing radiation. To demonstrate energy scaling with narrow bandwidth andtunability, a nanosecond, master oscillator power amplifier (MOPA) system operating around 2μm and based on large-aperture PPRKTP was built. The MOPA system demonstrated dualnarrowband spectrum, tunable over 1.5 THz by means of a transversally chirped volume Bragggrating, while delivering tens of mJ in output. The output from this MOPA system will be furtherused for tunable THz generation. Even narrower spectra can be generated employing backwardwaveoptical parametric oscillators (BWOPO) based on PPRKTP with the periodicity of 509 nm.This work demonstrates for the first time an efficient, millijoule-level BWOPO with backwardpropagating signal. The device possessed narrowband spectrum with stable output, making it anexcellent seed source in MOPA arrangements.