The emergence of high power fiber lasers, and their applications, is one of the most significant photonics breakthroughs in the last decade. Fiber lasers consist of a long “fiber-optic active laser medium,” pumped primarily by diode lasers directed into the fiber cladding.
They have CW outputs exceeding 10KW and can produce output pulses as short as 10 picoseconds. Because the pump light from the diode lasers lies in the absorption bands of the fiber laser active medium, the conversion of input electrical power to output laser power is highly efficient (30-40% efficiency, as compared to gas and solid lasers with efficiencies below 1%).
Average output powers from fiber lasers can reach as high as 10KW. Fiber lasers can operate in the CW mode or in various pulse modes; even picosecond pulses.
Because fiber lasers are smaller, more efficient, lighter weight, less costly, and their output beams are easier to manipulate than CO2 or Nd:YAG lasers, they are becoming the laser of choice for many materials processing applications, such as welding, drilling, cutting and etching of metals, plastics, ceramics, glass etc.
An excellent one-hour webcast is available for you to update your knowledge and understanding of fiber lasers at http://www.laserfocusworld.com/webcasts/2011/11/fiber-lasers.html. (Click on the red Register Now button for on-demand viewing.)
OP-TEC has developed two instructional modules on fundamentals and applications of fiber lasers. They can be previewed at http://www.op-tec.org/photonicstechnologies. We have also identified inexpensive equipment and designed labs to accompany the modules.