Optically pumped solid-state laser materials are subject to heating, concomitant with pumping, and thus thermal distortion. Early in the development of solid-state lasers, it was recognized that the slab geometry can provide intrinsic compensation for thermal distortion. The more recent development of the slab laser with the beam confined within the slab by total internal reflection to obtain a long interaction path length has broadened the utility of the slab geometry. The slab can be pumped at high average power without inducing significant optical distortion in a beam path. The limit for pumping power is determined by the thermal fracture level of the slab. Crystalline host materials as well as glasses can be employed in slab lasers with improved performance compared with the rod geometry. Performance characteristics of flash-lamp-pumped Nd3+ doped materials in cw, long pulse, and Q-switched slab lasers are reviewed. Other optical pumping means are under development to improve pumping efficiency and to increase the ratio of inversion pumping to heating rates. The continuing development of solid-state laser materials includes several with potential for broadening the application of the slab geometry. The significance of these developments for the slab geometry laser will be discussed. (Invited paper, 25 min)

© 1984 Optical Society of America

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