Laser Beam Collimation

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Compact Lasers and Optics (

Laser beam
Types of CW Lasers for Analytics
Many analytical methods use a CW laser as excitation source. Physical principles of fluorescence, Raman
scattering, absorption, Rayleigh scattering employ laser beam for transferring energy to molecules, thus exciting
them or sometimes taking energy away. Where there is no need for high-resolution scanning or very uniform
illumination, various laser beams might be used. But whenever it comes to having a good ability to focus or
uniformity of intencity, just certain types of lasers can be picked.
The visible and NIR spectral regions can be covered with either laser sources having continuously tunable
wavelength, supercontinuum sources or smaller and much cheaper CW laser modules having discrete spectral lines
from UV to infrared. In this article, we focus on compact CW lasers and their specialty.
With respect to beam profile, continuous wave (CW) lasers can be categorized as having Single-Spatial-Mode (SM)
or Multiple Spatial Modes (MM). Spatial modes are also referred to as ‘transversal modes’ or simply ‘beam modes’.
These modes are explained here.
Further, based on an operational principle, laser can be subcategorized as diode lasers or Diode-Pumped
Solid-State (DPSS) lasers. Eventually, Integrated Optics offers both of these subtypes in four different modules Free-Space (beam propagates directly from the laser module), Single-Mode Fiber (SMF; beam propagates through
optical fiber, which supports only single spatial mode), Multi-Mode Fiber (MMF; fiber supports multiple spatial
modes) and Polarization-Maintaining Fiber (PMF; SM fiber which is designed to maintain linear polarization during

Ways to Collimate a Laser Beam

Fig. 1. Aspheric lens is being used to collimate a laser diode beam.
Quite often CW lasers have a short cavity. The resonator of microchip DPSS lasers may vary from less than a
millimeter to few millimeters. Cavities of single-mode laser diodes are in the range of hundreds of microns.
Generally speaking, such short cavities produce highly divergent beams, which are not very usable in optical
The divergence requirement in microscopy and spectroscopy is often less than 2 mrad (full angle) or even less than
1.5 mrad. In order to meet this requirement of modern analytical instruments, laser beams have to be collimated.
This can be understood as putting a lens or a set of lenses in front of the laser cavity – does not matter be it a
semiconductor laser cavity or a short DPSS resonator. However, for different types of lasers (diode and DPSS) the
beam specifications are completely different.
A diode laser beam features low wavefront quality and high astigmatism - the divergence in the so-called fast axis is
much higher than divergence in the slow axis. Various techniques are used for collimating such an astigmatic beam
and in this consideration several objectives are important. The primary goal of collimation is to reduce divergence of
a beam, secondary goal is to eliminate astigmatism as much as possible, third – to improve wavefront quality, fourth
– to make the beam less elliptical, fifth – to maintain good focusability.
The most simple and popular way is to collimate a laser diode beam by using a single aspheric lens. (see Fig. 1).
The larger is the focal length of this lens, the larger will the beam diameter be after collimation. Futhermore, if a
certain beam adjustment has to be made, for example in order to expand the beam radius of a collimated beam, two
lens system is often used - the so called telescope. One lens with a negative focal length and the other with a
positive one creates a setup to collimate and expand or shrink the beam.
Quite frequently the most popular way to focus a laser diode beam is to use a two lens system where one lens

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As shown in Fig 3. otherwise the beam will have some spherical aberrations. for achieving best focussable (highest quality) beams. Fig. a pair of anamorphic prisms is often the case (see Fig. but position and orientation need to be carefully adjusted and wave front sensor is needed for such operation. a single aspheric lens can be used to focus the beam for direct focusing. whereas the orthogonal axis is called the 'slow axis'. as compared to the broader direction. 3). reality is different – cylindrical lenses must ideally be acylindrical. A SM or PM fiber acts as a spatial filter. which cleans and homogenizes the beam. the only drawback of this particular setup for circularizing a beam is that a user must deal with the beam displacement and expansion 2 di 5 13/12/2016 15:45 . When talking about two orthogonally positioned cylindrical lenses. so higher aberration will occur. larger beam and lots of diffractions. After propagation through the prisms a minor lateral beam displacement occurs. is the best choice for applications where optical fiber is already needed. Ellipticity and Methods to Circularize a Laser Beam Semiconductor laser diodes have an oblong emitter shape. In the direction where the gain region is collimates the highly divergent beam and the second lens focusses it. beam quality implies a measure for how well a laser beam can be focused. Besides. A cylindrical microlens is capable circularizing elliptical beams of a laser diodes as well. A collimated elliptical beam can be circularized by either expanding in the slow axis of the ellipsis or compressing in the fast axis direction. but in most cases it causes severe aberrations. but low-power diode lasers M2 factor is still rather low . This is the main reason why the beam emitter by a laser diode features different divergence parameters. Collimation of such beam with a single lens makes the beam elliptical. Other two methods will not be covered in detail. Minor flaws occur using microlenses. low-power DPSS lasers is the best choice. reducing the beam quality. A pair of anamorphic prisms can do the job and this setup is easy to find in the market. By definition. as thermal effects become stronger in a laser crystal. whereas high-power DPSS lasers have much higher M2 factor. The ratio of focal lengths of both lenses is related to the ratio of laser beam divergence in fast and slow axes. Diode lasers tend to have poorer beam quality than DPPS.g. these types of lenses are expensive and quite rare in the market. where aberration is not a worry. Diversity in many cases confuses a buyer when it comes to choosing the right optics setup with both suitable price and beam quality. One lens is placed to collimate the beam in the fast axis direction. Collimation using two cylindrical lenses (anamorphic lens pair). undoubtedly. in some cases the beam is transmitted through a circular aperture in order to circularize both its shape and intensity distribution. Alternativelly.around 1. The axis with the highest divergence is called the 'fast axis'.Laser Beam Collimation https://integratedoptics. Let’s discuss concisely about the pros and cons of mentioned methods for achieving a wanted beam spot. Talking about SM laser diode beam circularization. Beam Quality For beam quality measurements in most cases a measurable variable M2 is being used and is defined as beam quality factor. a SM fiber to the lasing output will circularize an elliptical beam. as scattering is generated. Cylindrical micro lenses are small. Also. Usually. In many cases. Most low-power DPSS lasers feature high beam quality. The result is distinguished by a very low wavefront error and. another – in slow axis direction. To conclude. A pair of regular cylindrical lenses are used in practice mainly for MM laser beam manipulations. e. It is a quantity that represents the degree of variation of a beam from a perfect Gaussian beam at the same wavelength. this method brings higher optical quality compared to the circularization by anamorphic prism pairs. 2. the first idea for collimating and circularizing a beam emitted by a semiconductor laser is to use two orthogonally positioned cylindrical lenses. SM fiber coupling is another delicate way to deal with an elliptical beam. but are also widely used – attaching a microlens. In some operations. 4 displays transformation of a laser diode beam throughout the process. the divergence is higher. Even though this elegant way looks suitable. these kinds of lenses will be thick.3. a rounded beam cross-section is much more desired than an elliptical shape beam. Fig. ideally 1.

This is why beam pointing stability of commercial laser products is often quantitatively defined. Poor Beam Profile Homogeneity Does Not Mean Bad Focusability 13/12/2016 15:45 . Fig 4. Thermal effects. which is not always wanted. after expansion or compression by a pair of anamorphic prisms (b). how well-heated components. Most commonly used quantity is angular fluctuations per degree (compression). The shape and intensity distribution of a collimated laser diode beam change right before propagating through the prisms (a).Laser Beam Collimation 3 di 5 https://integratedoptics. after clipping by a circular aperture (c). even if the optical components are completely stable. various aspects must be taken into account for choosing a laser setup: how stable resonator mirrors are when mechanical vibrations occur. 3. Beam pointing stability and accuracy (Bore sighting) If a laser beam propagates through some optical setup. When considering ways to optimize beam pointing stability. Pointing fluctuations are often reduced by careful alignment for maximum output power. Comparison of different collimation methods for diode and DPSS lasers. regarding the direction it’s propagating. such as electric circuits or diodes are refrigerated and isolated and how sensitive the laser’s beam quality is from the perspective of alignment. mechanical vibrations can affect the alignment of optical elements. Two anamorphic prisms can either expand or compress the beam. Table 1. Type Diode DPSS Collimation Size Cost Ellipticity Popularity Beam structure Beam focusability Beam diameter control Single aspheric lens small average high high poor good poor Two cylindrical lenses average high average average fair good average Aspheric lens + anamorphic prisms large high low high fair excellent average Uncollimated small low low high excellent excellent poor Single lens small average low high good excellent fair Two lenses small high low average good excellent excellent Fig. especially thermal expansion of materials. after a long distance propagation (d). affecting the output beam. Nevertheless. this will alter the magnitude and type of beam pointing fluctuations. can cause both direct and indirect beam pointing fluctuations. Such matters have significant effects for the optimization of pointing stability.

Laser Beam Collimation 4 di 5 https://integratedoptics. especially in the near-field. Fig. Looking at these pictures customers start to think the focusability of such beam must be poor. where the beam was focused with a long focal distance lens (f=200 mm). Focusability of a single aspheric lens collimated 405 nm laser diode. Herewith we provide 3 examples of aspheric-lens collimated laser diodes. 6. The tests reveal that close to the focal point the intensity distribution in a beam cross-section becomes more Customers are often confused when they see beam profile images of diode lasers. Fig. 5. Magnified image of the focal plane of a 405 nm laser diode (please refer to Fig. The table shows beam diameters in vertical and horizontal direction as well as the calculated ellipticity. 13/12/2016 15:45 . 5). Tests performed at ‘Integrated Optics’ showed that in the wave front quality becomes better after a longer distance of propagation or in a focal point. the beam becomes round on both sides of the focal spot and is elliptical in a perpendicular direction (with respect to the initial ellipticity) in the focal plane. In case a diode laser is collimated using just one aspheric lens. Furthermore. the beam in the near-field is strongly elliptical and the wave front looks distorted.

com /shareArticle?mini=true&url=https: //integratedoptics. For demanding applications we always recommend SM/PM fiber coupled lasers. Not all applications require a perfect beam.Laser Beam Collimation 5 di 5 https://integratedoptics. In the near-field the beam homogeneity is better as compared to the 405 nm (http://www. Your email address. the methid of collimation. DPSS lasers have better beam quality is most Fig. wheras fiber coupling is offered at very competitive rates. but those with high focusability requirements need either a beam from a DPSS laser or a well filtered beam from an SM laser diode. 8. 7). The table shows beam diameters in vertical and horizontal direction as well as the calculated ellipticity. Final Remarks Laser beams are different.. as compared to diode lasers but are more expensive. UAB Copyright 2012-2016.php?u=https: // 13/12/2016 15:45 . © Integrated Optics. 7.. Focusability of a single aspheric lens collimated 633 nm laser diode. depending on the type of a laser (diode vs. Fig. Magnified image of the focal plane of a 633 nm laser diode (please refer to Fig. Stay Updated Share this page on: (https://www. and homogenization applied. All rights /sharer.linkedin. At Integrated Optics we offer several types of beam collimation. but has some tails in the vertical direction – this is also mainly a property of the diode itself. laser power. DPSS).facebook. as compared to competition and provides much higher flexibility and virtually perfect beam quality.