High-energy diode-pumped solid-state lasers (DPSSL) with high beam quality are important sources for a wide range of applications such as laser–plasma interactions, hard X-ray generation, and inertial fusion energy (IFE). In order to achieve high pump power, a large-size laser diode (LD) stack is necessary for the DPSSL, since the emitting power density of the LD is limited. However, a large-size LD stack is difficult to be manufactured into an integrated stack but it has to be divided into a LD array, since the temperature distribution is inhomogeneous across the integrated stack, which would broaden the emission spectrum and lower the output energy. When an arrayed pump beam is used, the near-field laser beam distributes in the same array and shows bad beam quality. Therefore, it is needed to improve the beam quality of an arrayed near-field laser beam.
Deformable mirrors (DMs), which are the key devices of the adaptive optics, have been effective in improving the beam quality of high-power lasers and high-energy lasers, could be used to correct the wavefront distortion and improve the beam quality. Note that the incident beams on the DMs are integrated beams in the reported literatures, not the arrayed beams. Therefore, it is necessary to investigate the beam quality control of an arrayed beam by a DM and achieve the best beam quality.
The research group led by Lei Huang from Tsinghua University proposed the beam quality control of high-energy laser with arrayed near-field beam by an adaptive optics configuration and beam array optimization. In a 12.2 J 10 Hz Nd:YAG slab amplifier, the near-field beam was in a 3×1 array, with the beam quality of 10.89 times diffraction limited (TDL). By using a 116-actuator DM to correct the wavefront distortion, the beam quality was improved to 5.54 TDL. Further simulation results showed that the correction ability of the DM and the beam quality after correction were closely related to the beam array. An integrated beam could result in diffraction-limited beam quality after correction. In the experiment, by applying a pump-light homogenizer to transform the 3×1 beam array into an integrated beam, the beam quality was greatly improved from 5.54 TDL to 1.57 TDL after being corrected by the 116-acutator DM in a 10.7 J 10 Hz Nd:YAG slab amplifier. To the best of the research group’s knowledge, this is the first investigation on beam quality control of an arrayed near-field beam in the high-energy DPSSL. This work has been published in Chinese Optics Letters, Volume 17, No. 5, 2019 (Licheng Sun et al., 1.57 times diffraction limited high-energy laser based on a Nd:YAG slab amplifier and an adaptive optics system).
"The high beam quality is a goal as well as a challenge for the high-energy DPSSL." says Lei Huang, "The proposed IOL gives a possible way to achieve higher beam quality in higher energy lasers."
Now, the research can achieve a beam quality of 1.57 TDL in a 10 J class DPSSL. The research group expect that the beam quality could exceed 1.50 TDL for a 100 J class DPSSL in the future experiment by further homogenizing the pump intensity and improving the correction ability of the DM.
清华大学黄磊研究员带领的课题组提出了采用自适应光学和光束列阵优化的方法对具有阵列近场光束的高能激光器进行光束质量控制。首先，课题组在一个12.2 J、10 Hz Nd:YAG板条放大器中，得到近场光束呈3×1阵列、光束质量为10.89倍衍射极限（TDL）的激光输出。然后利用一台具有116个致动器的变形镜对激光的波前畸变进行校正，使光束质量提高到了5.54倍衍射极限,但还需继续提高。
进一步仿真结果表明，变形镜的校正能力和校正后的光束质量均与光束阵列密切相关。单光束在校正后会得到衍射极限的光束质量。在10.7 J、10 Hz Nd:YAG板条放大器的实验中，采用抽运光匀化器将3×1光束阵列匀化成单光束，再经过具有116个致动器的变形镜校正后，光束质量由匀化前的5.54倍衍射极限提高到了匀化后的1.57倍衍射极限。
据笔者所知，这是首次对高能DPSSL阵列近场光束质量控制的研究。相关成果发表在Chinese Optics Letters2019年第17卷第5期上。
目前，课题组在10 J级的激光器中获得了光束质量为1.57倍衍射极限的激光输出。希望在将来的工作中，通过进一步匀化抽运强度和提高变形镜的校正能力，可在100 J级的高能激光器中获得光束质量优于1.50倍衍射极限的激光输出。