Tunable fiber lasers’ main characteristic is the ability of the wavelength to be tuned or adjusted. This process is referred to wavelength tuning. Tuning of the fiber laser may occur over a wide range, which is highly desired for certain applications.
Tunable fiber lasers are called wavelength agile if the wavelength tuning may be performed with high speed. Fast wavelength tuning is important for dynamic environments in which the laser may be used. Generally, single frequency fiber lasers can be continuously tuned over a certain range; other laser types can be tuned to only access discrete wavelengths. Tuning of non-single frequency lasers over a large range leads to mode hops.
Among fiber lasers, rare-earth-doped fiber lasers have an ability to be tuned over a wide range of wavelengths. For example, ytterbium fiber lasers are tunable over tens of nanometers. Fiber lasers that are widely tunable are Raman fiber lasers.
Tunable fiber laser systems are used is a variety of different applications:
A high-frequency resolution of transmission recording is possible by using tunable lasers. Tunable fiber lasers are also used in LIDAR.
- Laser cooling
Some methods of laser cooling require tunable lasers that can be adjusted very precisely.
- Isotope separation
The process of isotope separation with the use of a tunable laser consists of adjusting the laser wavelength to atomic resonances first and later tuning it to a particular isotope to ionize it and deflect it with an electric field.
- Optical fiber communications
Tunable fiber lasers are often used as a spare laser in case the main fixed wavelength laser breaks down. In this situation, a wavelength-tunable laser is tuned to the wavelength of a particular channel that has failed.
- Optical frequency metrology
In optical frequency metrology, the laser needs to be stabilized to a certain standard, e.g. an absorption cell, an optical reference cavity.
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