Direct measurement of the 2D gain profile in a tapered semiconductor laser (Conference Presentation)
Single mode tapered semiconductor lasers producing watt-class output powers often suffer from beam quality degradation as drive current increases. The dominant degradation mechanism is believed to be poor gain clamping in the periphery of the optical mode; as the injection current is increased, excess gain in this region eventually leads to parasitic lasing in the amplifier section of the device. However, this effect has not previously been directly observed and other effects such as thermal lensing and gain guiding also likely contribute. Nevertheless, it has been previously shown that by engineering the overlap of the gain profile with the nonuniform optical intensity distribution, performance can be significantly improved. In this work, we report on the direct observation and mapping of the 2D gain profile in a tapered semiconductor laser. InGaAsP-based tapered diode lasers are fabricated with windowed openings on the back (substrate) side of the chip. The devices are soldered junction down for continuous wave operation. An optical microscope is used to observe and map the 2D spontaneous emission profile, and hence gain and carrier density, of the device under operation. The results are compared to a theoretical model to better understand the physical limitations of beam quality degradation in tapered diode lasers.