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Beam shaping and fibre coupling of high-power diode laser arrays

B. Ehiers, K. Du, M. Baumann, H.-G. Treusch, P. Loosen, R. Poprawe


Fraunhofer Institut für Lasertechnik, SteinbachstraBe 15,
52074 Aachen, Germany

ABSTRACT

A technique for coupling the radiation of a high-power diode laser bar into one multimode fibre with high efficiency, easy
alignment requirements and low manufacturing costs is demonstrated using a single fibre with 400 jtm core diameter. The
principal item ofthe fibre-coupling system is a pair of micro step-mirrors -a novel design for beam shaping. The overall effi-
ciency from diode-laser to fibre is 71% with 20 W cw laser power through the fibre. Polarisation and wavelength multiplexing
renders the system scaleable to higher output power which makes it highly suitable for material processing and pumping of
lasers.

Keywords: diode laser arrays, laser beam shaping, micro optics, optical system design, fibre-optic components, solid-state
laser pumping, material processing

1. INTRODUCTION
Diode laser bars serve as small and reliable laser-beam sources with long life-spans. Their output power has been greatly
increased in recent years. Now the output power of one diode laser bar is sufficient for applications such as end pumping of
solid-state lasers or material processing. In most of these applications, the laser beam is transmitted by an optical fibre be-
cause of greater flexibility and good radial symmetry of the delivered laser beam. However, the characteristics of the irradi-
ated laser light do not show radial symmetry. The light is emitted from a surface of dimensions 1 tm x 1 0 mm, where the
smallest dimension is oriented perpendicular to the p-n junction. More precisely, the laser light is emitted from small facets
positioned within this region. Depending on the specific structure of the diode laser bar, the emitting facets are separated by
dead space which is optically inactive. In the case of the diode laser bar used in this work, the emitting facets cover 30% of
the surface specified above. Furthermore, the space into which this light is radiated is confined within a cone which measures
300 in the direction perpendicular to the p-njunction and 5° parallel to the p-njunction ofthe diode laser. This leads to beam-
quality factors of approximately M2 — 1 in the direction perpendicular and M2 = 1700 in the direction parallel to the
p-njunction of the diode. These values show that the beam is far away from having a radially symmetric shape which is de-
fined by a constant beam-quality factor in all axes.

Different approaches have been proposed to shape the diode laser emission to obtain a circular focus spot. In [1, 2], emission
from diode laser bars are coupled into a multitude of fibres. These fibres are arranged in such a way as to generate a circular
fibre bundle at the output end. In [3], a beam-shaping technique using two diffractive elements is demonstrated. In [4, 5], the
emission of each emitting facet (sub-beam) is incident on a micro prism. The emerging beam consists of sub-beams which are
rotated 900 about their axis ofpropagation. In [6], two plane parallel mirrors are used to reshape the emission from diode laser
bars. The system, proposed in [7], comprises a special micro lens design which separates the radiation of the individual emit-
ters ofthe diode laser in the direction perpendicular to the p-n junction. A blazed grating redirects the emission parallel to the
optical axis again. However, most of these techniques have drawbacks such as large size, low flexibility, low efficiency or
they are difficult to manufacture. Here, we demonstrate a technique using two micro step-mirrors to rearrange the emission
from diode laser bars arid to couple it into an optical fibre. This system overcomes most of the drawbacks of other systems.

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2. BEAM-SHAPING TECHNIQUE

The set-up for the transformation of the diode laser radiation consists of two identical micro step-mirrors. This device consists
of N highly-reflective surfaces which are arranged in a special manner as depicted in Fig. 1 . Firstly, three axes are introduced
which we refer to during the following discussion. The axis in which the emitting facets are aligned is referred to as the slow
axis. This is the direction with the relatively small divergence. The axis perpendicular to the plane of the p-n junction is re-
ferred to as the fast axis. It marks the direction of the large divergence angle of the diode. The third axis, to complete the co-
ordinate system, is the direction of propagation of the laser beams. This definition of this cartesian co-ordinate system has the
advantage that the beam properties, especially the beam divergence, remain unchanged under reflection. From Fig. 1 it can be
seen that each single mirror surface of the first micro step-mirror is tilted 45° about the slow axis and separated from the
neighbouring surface by a constant distance d along the axis of propagation. This distance d corresponds to the width of a
mirror surface. Thus, the centres of the mirror surfaces include an angle of 450 to the axis ofpropagation.

Fig. 1 Schematic view of the micro step-mirrors

The collimated beam is incident on the first micro step-mirror. Here, it is cut into N sub-beams along the slow axis and re-
flected into the fast-axis direction. Each sub-beam which is reflected from the first step-mirror is incident on one surface of
the second step-mirror. The surfaces of the second step-mirror are arranged in such a way as to reflect the sub-beams into the
slow-axis direction.

By means of these deflections a transformation of the diode laser radiation is performed. Before the rearrangement, the sub-
beams are aligned next to one other along the slow axis. The beam-quality factor is approximately M02 1700. After the
rearrangement by the first step-mirror, the sub-beams are grouped in a stair-shaped geometry. Finally the outgoing beams are
arranged in a line again but now along the fast axis. As described above, each sub-beam exhibits a beam-quality factor in the
fast axis of Mf02 1. The resulting M2 of the sum of the sub-beams is

M2 N.M02 (1)

where diffraction losses of 2% have to be taken into account due to the finite extension of the steps at the second step-
mirror. However, this only holds if the fill-factor of the sub-beams after the transformation is 1. Otherwise the resulting beam

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quality will be further decreased. Therefore, the width of the steps has to be adjusted to the beam diameter in the fast-axis. On
the opposite side, the beam quality along the slow axis improves by the factor of N while M2 correspondingly decreases by N:

M02
M2 (2)

Again, diffraction effects caused by the clipping of the beam into sub-beams by the mirror surfaces contribute losses of 1%.
Now, N has to be chosen as a number which will render M2 and M similar. This case is the best approximation of a homoge-
neous distribution of the beam quality with respect to the axis of propagation. The number of steps N included in one micro
step-mirror then is given by
2
1sO
N2 = (3)
Mf02

The system of the micro step-mirror was simulated by a three-dimensional ray-tracing routine. The numerical code is designed
for the need of an accurate simulation of the radiation characteristics of the diode laser array, particularly the different angles
of divergence in fast- and slow-axis.

A simulation with the parameters of the diode laser stated above and a micro step-mirror consisting of eleven steps with a step
width of d 1 mm is performed. In Fig. 2, a spot diagram - calculated for a plane at some distance after the step mirrors - is
shown. The cross-section of the spot has similar dimensions in fast- and slow-axis. The distribution consists of eleven stripes
which broaden slightly from the bottom to the top. This effect is caused by the staircase-like displacement of each mirror
along the axis of propagation. Furthermore, the upper and the lower stripes exhibit a cut-off which originates from the fact that
the outer mirrors are not illuminated by the full slow-axis angle of the light cone of the diode laser.

Fig. 2 Ray tracing simulation of the micro step-mirrors

An intensity distribution like the one shown in Fig. 2 can be focused to a nearly square spot. By means of the ray-tracing rou-
tine, the parameters of the micro step-mirror can be adjusted to the characteristics of different diode lasers.

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3. EXPERIMENTAL RESULTS

To demonstrate the beam-shaping technique, a series of experiments were performed. Fig. 3 illustrates the set-up. The diode
laser bar used is a laser bar with a total width of 10 mm and an output power of 28 W at an injection currentof 40 A. Efficient
cooling is achieved through the use of a microchannel-watercooling device, designed and manufactured by the Fraunhofer
ILT. A cylindrical micro lens is used to collimate the divergent beam in the fast axis. It is designed and manufactured by
Fraunhofer, particularly for fibre-coupling applications [7]. The beam divergence of the collimated beam measures 1.2 mrad,
incorporating about 86%. The lie2beam height behind the micro lens is 800 j.tm. The throughput of the micro lens amounts to
96% with a broad-band AR-coating.

Micro f= 150mm
Step-Mirrors

Micro 400 pm
Fiber
Lens
=40 mm.
Diode Bar
on Heat Sink

Fig. 3 Set-up for the fibre-coupling technique

The power of the collimated beam, at an injection current of 40 A, is 27 W. As illustrated above, the shaping of the diode
laser emission is accomplished with two micro step mirrors. This device is placed directly in front of the micro lens. Each
micro step-mirror consists of 13 steps. Each surface has a width of 1 mm. After the transformation, the difference remaining
between the beam-quality factors is small.

E
C
0
0
>-

01 * , .
T L
0 100 200 300 400 500 600
X Position [pm]

Fig. 4 Intensity profile of the focused spot

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To obtain a square spot, a cylindrical lens off 150 mm is used. It yields a beam, collimated in both axial directions, if it is
inclined by 45° about the y-direction. This is necessary, because the 1 3 beams, leaving the beam shaper, are reflected from
surfaces which form an angle of 45° with the axis of propagation. The beam is focused into the fibre with an achromatic lens
off 40 mm. The dimensions ofthe spot at the surface ofthe fibre are shown in Fig. 4. The spot measures 160 jim x 340 tm
encompassing 86% of the power.

Experiments are conducted with 600 jim and 400 j.tm fibres, AR-coated at 810 nm. The numerical aperture of both fibres is
0.22. The results are shown in Fig. 5. The diagram shows the power transmitted through the fibre, measured with a thermal
absorber. The coupling efficiency of a 600 jim fibre is higher than that achieved with a 400 j.tm fibre, due to the deviation of
the spot from its square-shaped geometry. The large extent of the spot breaches the dimension of the 400 im fibre. Thus, the
whole beam cannot be focused on the entrance aperture of the fibre. Furthermore, it can be seen that the coupling efficiency
decreases with increasing injection current when using the 400 jim fibre. Experiments on the radiation characteristics of the
diode laser bar showed that the fast-axis divergence is not altered by variation of the injection current within a range where the
slope efficiency of the diode is constant, i.e. the range of operation in practice. However, the slow-axis divergence increases
with increasing injection current. Although this effect is not drastic, it leads to a small reduction of the beam quality. This
broadens the dimension of the focus spot and thus decreases the coupling efficiency slightly.

20

15

ci)

00 10

0
0 10 20 30 40
Injection Current [A]

Fig. 5 Power through different fibre diameters

According to Eq. (2) the beam-quality factor in the slow axis should calculate to M2 — 131. In the fast axis a fill-factor of 0.8
after the transformation has to be taken into account. The beam-quality factor, stated in Eq. (1), then amounts to M =33.
These values have to be compared with the beam-quality factor achieved at the fibre end. The result of the experimental work
leads to M2 145 and M/ — 68 given the size ofthe spot and the NA ofthe fibre. This shows that there is a good conformity
of the beam-quality factor in the slow axis between the calculated value and the experimental result. On the other hand, the
calculated beam quality in the fast axis could not be confirmed by the experiment. The reasons for this gap could be seen in
the fast-axis divergence after the collimation by the micro lens. The divergence angle of 1 .2 mrad cannot be reached along the
full width ofthe diode laser bar because of the "smile effect". This effect occurs if some emitting facets ofthe diode-laser bar
are displaced by a small distance of only some j.tm from a straight line along the slow axis. Due to the short focal length this
has a significant effect on the divergence angle after the micro lens. Thus, the divergence angle does not result in the assumed
value of 1 .2 mrad but one significantly larger. However, this effect is not of importance for the experiments carried out. After
transformation, the fast-axis beam quality is still better than the slow-axis beam quality by a factor of approximately two. Only

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if more steps are included in the beam shaper and the slow-axis beam quality becomes higher than the fast-axis beam quality,
is more effort necessary to improve the beam quality of the fast-axis.

Experiments with two diode laser bars, which are polarization-coupled have also been performed. Experiments with a 600 j.tm
fibre and two diode laser bars yield 40 W through the fibre at 40 A injection current. With optimized mechanical components
which allow for a precise alignment of the two beams, the same throughput can be obtained with a 400 jtm fibre. It can be
assumed that a further optimization of the micro step-mirrors will yield a square-shaped spot. This means that more steps in
the micro step-mirrors should be included. Furthermore, a decrease in the step width, from 1 mm to 0.8 mm, can increase the
brightness of the focused spot by enhancing the fill-factor of the rearranged beams. Using the same diode laser bar, the same
throughput of 20 W with a single diode laser bar and 40 W with two polarization-coupled diode laser bars should be possible
with a 300 j.tm fibre or smaller.

4. CONCLUSION
In conclusion, a beam-shaping technique is demonstrated which yields highly efficient equalization of the beam-quality fac-
tors. With this set-up, 71% of the power of the diode laser bar is transmitted through a 400 im fibre. An even higher effi-
ciency should be obtained through further optimization of the micro step-mirrors and the micro lens. The whole set-up is
compact and comprises only a few optical components. The micro step-mirrors are less sensitive to misalignments or "smile"
of the diode than other concepts and their alignment is easy to perform. Results give rise to the assumption that an increase in
efficiency and a decrease in fibre diameter is possible. Multiplexing of several diode arrays facilitates direct material proc-
essing. Overall, this fibre-coupling technique permits the beam of a diode-laser bar to be coupled into a small multimode fibre
with high efficiency, requiring minimum space.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

This work was partially supported by Daimler Benz and BMBF/VDE in the framework of contract 16SV415/8

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