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IV-VI Semiconductor Mid-IR Lasers

  • Patrick J. McCann (a1) and Yurii Selivanov (a2)

Mid-IR lasers fabricated from narrow bandgap IV-VI semiconductors are proven devices for molecular spectroscopy applications. Wide single-mode tunability, low waste heat generation, and large spectral coverage from about 1000 cm−1 (10 µm) to about 2500 cm−1 (4 µm) have allowed development of laser absorption spectroscopy instrumentation for fast and sensitive measurement of specific gas phase molecules. For example, IV-VI mid-IR lasers with emission in the 5.2 µm spectral range have recently enabled the development of breath analysis instruments for real-time measurement of exhaled nitric oxide (eNO). Laser tunability with current ramping is sufficient for simultaneous measurement of exhaled carbon dioxide (eCO2), a capability that allows highly accurate determination of eNO concentrations in the low ppb range, a sensitivity required for assessing airway inflammation in patients with asthma. After discussing emerging medical diagnostic applications this paper reviews recent progress in the development of liquid-nitrogen-free cryogenic cooling systems for IV-VI mid-IR lasers. A description of continuing research on the development of improved IV-VI lasers, where the primary objective is to fabricate devices with continuous wave (cw) operation at room temperature is then presented. Theoretical and experimental analysis of (111)-oriented multiple quantum well (MQW) IV-VI materials show that it should be possible to reduce lasing thresholds significantly. In addition, results from transferring IV-VI materials from low thermal conductivity growth substrates to higher thermal conductivity copper show that new laser packaging methods can significantly improve active region heat dissipation. Together, these new materials and device packaging methods promise to enable the fabrication of IV-VI mid-IR lasers with cw operation at room temperature.

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