Connecting Theory and Practice in Optoelectronics

Category Archives: laser

NUSOD 2017 Preview: Dynamic simulation of quantum cascade laser structures with optical nonlinearities

QuantuQCL_combm cascade lasers (QCLs) utilize quantized electron states as laser levels, which can be custom-tailored to the specific application by adequately designing the multi-quantum-well active region. With dephasing times between the upper and the lower laser level of about a picosecond, coherent light-matter interaction, along with other effects such as dispersion and spatial hole burning, governs the laser dynamics [1]. Besides leading to multimode instabilities [1], the ultrafast dynamics in QCLs is increasingly exploited to implement innovative functionalities, such as the generation of frequency combs [2,3] and picosecond optical pulses [4] in the mid-infrared and terahertz regime.

For a targeted design of such structures and a deeper understanding of the complex QCL dynamics, a detailed theoretical model is required. We have developed a multi-domain simulation approach, which couples a Maxwell-Bloch type description of the light-matter interaction with advanced ensemble Monte Carlo (EMC) carrier transport simulations to eliminate empirical electron lifetimes [5]. In the figure, simulation results for a QCL-based terahertz frequency comb source [3] are presented. The laser dynamics gives rise to a two-lobed power spectrum consisting of equidistant discrete comb lines [Fig. (a)]. Furthermore, a periodic temporal shifting of the power between the two spectral lobes is observed [Fig. (b)]. The two-lobed comb spectrum and the associated temporal switching dynamics have also been observed in experiment [3,5], validating our simulation model.

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NUSOD 2017 Preview: Theory and simulations of self-pulsing in photonic crystal Fano lasers

fano_laserPulsed lasers are utilised in a wide variety of applications, especially optical communication systems, and in particular lasers that support passive pulse generation (self-pulsing). The phenomenon of self-pulsing was exclusively found in macroscopic lasers until recently, where self-pulsing in a microscopic photonic crystal Fano laser was reported [1].

The Fano laser (fig. 1) consists of a line-defect waveguide in a 2D photonic crystal membrane coupled to a nearby point-defect, with active material embedded directly in the membrane. This coupling yields a strong, narrowband suppression of transmission, due to the interference of the continuous waveguide modes with the discrete mode of the nanocavity, effectively forming the right-most laser mirror at the symmetry line, with the left formed by termination of the waveguide [2].

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NUSOD 2017 Preview: Maximum GaN-laser power limited by Auger recombination

AugerT80Auger recombination inside the light-emitting InGaN quantum wells (QWs) was recently identified as major cause of output power limitations in GaN-based blue light-emitting diodes (LEDs) which are the core of many modern light sources. In this electron-hole recombination process, the released energy is transferred to another carrier (electron or hole) without light emission. The Auger recombination rate rises strongly with the QW carrier density and therefore intensifies with stronger current injection into the LED.

In contrast to LEDs, GaN-based blue laser diodes are expected to suffer less from Auger recombination,  based on the popular opinion that the QW carrier density does not rise with increasing current injection above lasing threshold. Shuji Nakamura, who received the 2014 Nobel Prize in physics for his pioneering work on GaN-LEDs, stated in his Nobel lecture that “Auger recombina­tion, with the resulting efficiency droop, does not appreciably occur in blue laser diodes”.  We dispute this claim based on our numerical analysis of  high-power InGaN/GaN laser measurements.

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What causes the low energy efficiency of GaN-based lasers?

CW80CThe energy efficiency is the fraction of the electrical input energy that is emitted as laser light. It is usually given as power conversion efficiency (PCE) and it is surprisingly low for GaN-based lasers. OSRAM just announced a record number of PCE=43%  at SPIE Photonics West. This is certainly a remarkable achievement, considering the struggle to break the mysterious 40% limit. However, 43% is far below the record PCE of 84% reported for GaN LEDs. The inherently low hole conductivity and large series resistance on the p-doped side of GaN lasers are usually blamed for the efficiency deficit. However, the series resistance is known to shrink with rising temperature, which can be attributed to the increasing density of free holes in p-doped layers. Thus, one would expect that the PCE improves at elevated temperatures. But the OSRAM paper reported that the measured PCE drops with higher ambient temperature despite the shrinking series resistance. Ergo, there seems to be an even stronger loss mechanism involved.

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A fresh look at high-power laser analysis

nthOne of the key rules of semiconductor laser physics relates to the carrier density inside the active layer. As long as I can remember, this rule states that the carrier density remains constant when the injection current rises above the lasing threshold. The reason lies in the stimulated emission of photons which consumes all additional carriers injected above threshold. The threshold carrier density delivers the threshold optical gain that compensates for the optical loss, which is usually not dependent on the injection current. Thus, the threshold carrier density should also remain constant. However, my recent analysis of high-power lasers yields different results (see picture). Read more of this post