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Radially polarized high-power lasers

Marwan Abdou Ahmed*a, Andreas Voß a, Moritz M. Vogel a, Armin Austerschulte a, Joachim Schulzb, Volker Metschc,Tobias Moserd, and Thomas Graf a a Institut für Strahlwerkzeuge (IFSW), University of Stuttgart, Pfaffenwaldring 43, D-70569 Stuttgart Germany b Vorentwicklung CO2-laser, TRUMPF Laser- und Systemtechnik GmbH, Johann-Maus-Straße 2, Germany c TRUMPF Werkzeugmaschinen GmbH + Co. KG, Johann-Maus-Straße 2, Germany d LASAG AG, C.F.L. Lohnerstrasse 24, Switzerland
ABSTRACT
In the recent years high-power laser beams with radial polarization have attracted an increasing interest because of their interesting properties in material processing. We present an overview of the current activities and different techniques to generate such beams in CO2 and solid-state lasers. With a polarising end-mirror which comprises a resonant grating on a dielectric multilayer Bragg-structure we recently demonstrated a 3-kW radially polarised CO2 laser. Current investigations are also focused especially on the application of this technology to thin-disk lasers. The specific requirements and the whole development from the design and fabrication to the characterization and test are illustrated with the example of a multilayer polarizing grating mirror developed to generate a radially polarised beam in an Yb:YAG thin-disc laser resonator. The potential of this kind of beams are discussed with a number of first application results, which largely confirm the predictions presented by Niziev et al1. Keywords: Radial Polarization, high-power-lasers, resonant waveguide gratings, laser metal cutting, percussion drilling

1. INTRODUCTION
Modes with axially symmetric (i.e. radial and azimuthal) polarizations are of particular importance for many applications. For instance, an optimized polarization distribution essentially improves the absorption of the laser radiation in material processing and therefore significantly influences the overall efficiency. For metal cutting, it was predicted already theoretically1 that radially polarized CO2 laser modes are preferable because of their significantly higher absorption as compared to beams with linear or circular polarization states. In micro-drilling experiments2,3, azimuthally or radially polarized beams were reported to significantly enhance the drilling efficiency depending on the drilling method and the processed material. Radial polarization has also been used by Moshe et al.4 in high-power Nd:YAG rod lasers to avoid bi-focusing caused by the thermally induced birefringence in laser rods. Other applications such as particle acceleration5, lithography, data storage, resolution-enhanced microscopy6, particle trapping or guiding7, orientation of single molecules8 and optical tweezers9 also take advantage of the specific properties of beams with axially-symmetric polarization. The most important application for high-power laser beams with axially symmetric polarization is material processing. Different approaches for the intra- or extra-cavity generation of axially-symmetric polarized laser radiation have been investigated in the past10-15. In the present work we focus on the development of a polarization selective resonant grating mirror to generate beams with radial polarization in a CO2 laser and in an Yb:YAG thin-disc laser.

*abdou.ahmed@ifsw.uni-stuttgart.de; phone +49 (0)711 685-69755; fax+49 (0)711 685-69755; www.ifsw.uni-stuttgart.de

XVII International Symposium on Gas Flow, Chemical Lasers, and High-Power Lasers, edited by Rui Vilar, Olinda Conde, Marta Fajardo, Luís O. Silva, Margarida Pires, Andrei Utkin, Proc. of SPIE Vol. 7131, 71311I · © 2009 SPIE · CCC code: 0277-786X/09/$18 · doi: 10.1117/12.816818 Proc. of SPIE Vol. 7131 71311I-1

As a first step and for the spectral characterization of the polarizing effect a linear grating was fabricated.0.9% +/. of SPIE Vol. The centre wavelengths of the two dips are shifted by about 50 nm to shorter wavelengths relative to the design. Due to the large spectral width of the double dip. At a wavelength of 10. The solid and dashed lines in figure 1 show the calculated reflection coefficients for azimuthal and radial polarizations of the polarizing mirror as designed. This latter is optimized so that λres = λlaser . is the resonance (or coupling) wavelength and Λ g the grating period. circles) for TE (resp. It shows the measured wavelength dependence of the reflectivity for TE and TM polarized beams (corresponding to azimuthally and radially polarized beams. The grating has been etched at the top of the multilayer using a standard photolithography mask transfer followed by a reactive ion beam etching. The polarizing effect occurs when the synchronism condition (under normal incidence) is satisfied i.6 µm.0.5% +/.3% whereas it is Rrad = 99. on a circular grating).1 The polarizing mechanism The polarizing effect is based on an intra-cavity reflectivity difference between the two orthogonal polarization states16-18 which is induced by a waveguide coupling mechanism between the incident free space beam and one (or two neighboring) leaky wave-guide modes in the multilayer mirror19.5 microns and a shallow groove depth to couple the incident beam to two neighboring modes of the multilayer waveguide. the shift does not affect the performance of the element. The dots indicate the gain spectrum of the CO2 laser. and period of the grating). After this confirmation of the proper behavior of the grating mirror a circular grating was fabricated in a second step using the same photolithography and etching process as for the linear grating.3% for the wanted TM (radial) polarization. 7131 71311I-2 .6 µm which corresponds to the expected coupling of the two neighboring leaky modes. The reflectivity spectrum shows a double dip around 10.e. This mode spectrum was designed and chosen in order to obtain a wide spectral bandwidth of the polarizing effect and therewith widen the manufacturing tolerances of the structure parameters (thicknesses and refractive indices of the layers as well as groove depth. TM) polarizations). A commercial exact modeling code based on the modal method21 was used to design the resonant grating mirror. the required local reflectivity difference for TE (parallel to grating lines) and TM (perpendicular to grating lines) polarized incident radiation is locally introduced using a circular grating20. Without the grating the reflectivity of the multilayer mirror is 99. respectively.6 µm the reflectivity of the undesired TE (azimuthal) polarization is Razim = 43.8% for both polarizations.2 A 3-kW radially polarized CO2 laser The multilayer used to generate a high-power radially polarized CO2 Laser beam was composed of a GaAs substrate and a special stack of dielectric layers that supports several TE leaky modes at a wavelength of 10. Proc. 2. GENERATION OF RADIALLY POLARIZED HIGH-POWER LASER BEAMS 2. Such leaky modes are characterized by an effective index which is located between 1 and the substrate refractive index.1% for the azimuthally polarized radiation and 99. The reflection coefficients are 41. In the case of axially-symmetric (radial and azimuthal) polarization states. The grating was designed with a period of 6.6% for the radially polarized beam. line to space ratio. this may be due to some small differences between the parameters of the actual structure and the design. the results are given in figure 2 (open triangles (resp.2. when: neff = λ where λ res res Λg . The spectral characterization of the polarizing grating mirror was done with a spectroscopic setup which was built according to DIN EN ISO 13697 with a slight modification for its use under normal incidence22.

100 radial polarization 80 Reflectivity (%) 60 Λ grating 40 σ Multilayer mirror 20 GaAs substrat azimuthal polarization 0 10000 10200 10400 10600 10800 11000 Wavelength (nm) Figure 1: Radial and azimuthal. As an inset a 3D picture of the polarizing mirror is depicted. of SPIE Vol. The polarization state over the beam cross section was verified by scanning the enlarged beam cross section using a Lasnix 605 apparatus with a rotating polarizer23. Proc. CO2 laser resonator used for the generation of the radially polarized beam Figure 3 shows a photograph of the generated pure doughnut-mode burned into a Plexiglas cube. 7131 71311I-3 . calculated (dashed and solid lines) and measured (open triangles and open circles) reflectivities versus the wavelength for the 6500 nm period and 200 nm groove depth grating at normal incidence. For the intra-cavity laser tests. The measured polarization distribution of the beam is depicted in figure 4. It clearly shows that the electrical field exhibits a pure radial distribution over the whole beam cross section. 3 kW of cw output power with a pure radially polarized mode were demonstrated using our grating mirror in the commercial laser system. the polarizing mirror with the concentric circular grating was introduced in a TRUMPF TruFlow 4000 CO2 laser shown in figure 2. polarizing mirror output coupler Figure 2.

18. 7131 71311I-4 . the grating is etched into the mirror substrate at the bottom of the dielectric multilayer as shown in the cross-section given in Figure 5. this result is worth attention.7 kW cw output power with stable and radially polarized beam for several hours. To our knowledge this is the highest stable and radially polarized beam power demonstrated to date. Proc. Measured Polarization distribution over the beam cross section.Figure3.3 Radially polarized solid-state lasers In the following and based on the same polarizing mechanism. In contrast to previous work16. of SPIE Vol. Figure 4. The efficiency of the laser with the radially polarized output in a pure doughnut-mode was measured to be 10% lower as compared to the operation with the usual non-polarizing HR mirror. The arrows show the polarization direction through the lasnix apparatus at different positions over the beam cross section. Considering that the spatial overlap of the pure doughnut-mode with the homogenous gain distribution of the laser is notably smaller than in standard laser configuration. 2. we will discuss on the specific requirements and properties of a circular polarizing grating integrated in a standard multilayer HR mirror to generate radially polarized radiation in a solid-state laser and especially in an Yb:YAG thin-disk laser. Burn-in of the doughnut CO2 laser beam into a plexiglas cube In a long-term test the laser was operated at 2.

This broad spectrum significantly improves the fabrication tolerances which were found to be critical in the previous work with the old mirror design.48 and dl = 174 nm for SiO2.185 and dh = 118 nm for Ta2O5 and nl = 1. which allows the implementation of a standard etching process. The scanning electron microscope (SEM) cross-section image of the linear multilayer polarizing grating mirror given in figure 6b shows the excellent conformal reproduction of the corrugation amplitude of the grating ensured by the ion plating coating technology. if the grating is etched into the top layer of the mirror a 4 times deeper grating is required to obtain the same bandwidth and the same reflectivity difference. For the experimental characterization of the described polarizing mirror and the subsequent test in an Yb:YAG thin-disk laser. 15 nm 920 nm Ta205 Si02 118 nm 174 nm multilayer Figure 5: Cross section of the proposed multilayer polarizing grating mirror Taking advantage of the multiple corrugation interfaces caused by the grating etched into the mirror substrate as shown in figure 5 leads to an enhancement of the coupling efficiency25 and. For instance. its geometry is replicated to every single layer of the dielectric multilayer coating of the mirror. of SPIE Vol. The reflection coefficient for the radial polarization was calculated to exceed 99.95%. this leads to a reflectivity difference of 20% between the desired radial and the suppressed azimuthal polarization states. The modeling of the element were carried out using a commercially available numerical code based on the modal method21. the strength of the effect is significantly larger than in the case where the grating is applied to the top layer only. leading to substantially higher roughness of the structure and thus to much higher scattering losses. a linear (to facilitate the measurement of the spectral distribution of the TM and TE reflectivities) and a circular grating with the same parameters were fabricated with a hard-contact photolithography mask transfer technique followed by a reactive ion etching (RIE) process into the fused silica substrate. lower scattering losses24 and significantly broader fabrication tolerances. The nominal refractive indices n at 1030 nm (as communicated by the supplier) and thicknesses d of the layers are nh = 2. The potential advantages of the proposed solution over our previous designs16.98% calculated without the presence of the grating. since the polarizing mechanism is based on a coupling mechanism that leads to power leaking into the substrate as described in ref [16-19].By etching the grating into the fused silica substrate. which is very close to the 99. The standard dielectric HR-coating of the mirror consisted of 29 alternating Ta2O5/SiO2 quarter-wave layers which were deposited by Tafelmaier GmbH using the ion plating technology. The structured substrate was then coated with the 29 alternating Ta2O5/SiO2 layers as described above. The grating designed for the use in an Yb:YAG thin-disk laser has a period of 920 nm and a groove depth of 15 nm. As shown by the atomic-force microscope (AFM) measurement in figure 6a a grating groove depth of 25 nm was obtained in the fused silica of the substrate. According to the numerical modeling results. Proc.18 are the ease of fabrication especially in the case of a fused silica substrate. 7131 71311I-5 .

it was characterized with a copy of the spectroscopic setup described above for the 1 µm wavelength range. The radial polarization of the generated beam was confirmed by recording the intensity distribution through a linear polarizer under different orientations. 7131 71311I-6 .multilayer grating multilayer Figure 6: a) AFM scan of the grating etched in the substrate before and after the coating. 10 W of radially polarized radiation in a clean doughnut mode were generated with the help of our novel Proc. Figure 7: Wavelength dependence of the reflection coefficients at normal incidence. of SPIE Vol. An Yb:YAG thin disk-laser resonator as depicted in figure 8a was setup for this purpose. The calculation and the experiments for the TM polarization are shown by the blue solid line and the blue dots. which shows the intensity distribution of the beam without the polarizer on the top left corner and the corresponding intensity distributions after the polarizer. The obtained results show a good agreement especially at the design wavelength of 1030 nm and demonstrate the high reliability of the solution proposed in this paper. respectively. The measured spectral response of the polarizing multilayer grating mirror is given in figure 7 for both polarization states in comparison to the behavior predicted by the numerical calculations of this sample with a grating period of 920 nm and a groove depth of 25 nm. The 421 mm long resonator was designed to oscillate in the TEM01 mode.3) % at 1030 nm respectively. b) SEM picture of the multilayer polarizing grating mirror Before the sample was cleaved to record the SEM picture. The grating in the substrate had a period of 920 nm and groove depth of 25 nm. It comprises a 150 µm thick Yb:YAG disk. This is shown in Figure 8b. The black solid line shows the calculated and the red dots the measured values for the TE polarization. the circular polarizing grating mirror (which has the same grating parameters) was used for the intracavity laser tests.3) % and (99. The reflection coefficients for the TE and TM polarizations were measured to be (76 ± 0. After this confirmation of the proper behavior of the developed elements with the help of the linear grating.6 ± 0. a 3% transmission output coupler and the polarizing grating as the end reflector.

7131 71311I-7 . of SPIE Vol. polarizing grating mirror b) Figure 8: a) Yb:YAG thin-disk laser resonator used for the generation of radially polarized radiation and b) Measured intensity distribution of the 10-W radially polarised thin-disk laser beam without (top left) and with a linear polarizer at different orientations 3. Additionally and at the same cutting speed the roughness of the cut edge could be reduced by 50% for radial polarization as shown in figure 11 which is a significant quality improvement. Taking into account the output coupling of only 3% this is well explained by the reflectivity of the grating mirror which was about half a percent lower than the reflectivity of the unstructured HR mirror. Until know up to more than 200W radially polarized beams were reached in Yb:YAG thin-disk lasers with our polarizing scheme. this is the first demonstration of a radially polarized Yb:YAG thin-disk laser. Radially and circularly polarized laser beams with a power of 2. Up to 50% higher cutting efficiency was obtained already in these preliminary experiments for radial polarization in comparison to circular polarization. Proc. Before going to higher power levels.. the output power obtained in radial polarization was 10 to 15% lower. In order to confirm this prediction we carried out preliminary cutting and drilling experiments. The cutting experiments were carried out with a 2. In the following we report on the first preliminary results on material-processing with radially and azimuthally polarized laser beams.1 Sheet Metal cutting with a radially polarized CO2 laser A serial of cutting experiments of stainless steel were carried out using the TruFlow 4000 TRUMPF laser system26. 3. output coupler active medium Yb:YAG (thin disk) a) I. 3. additional investigations are actually in progress to further reduce the losses introduced by the element with a better control of the etching process.4 kW at the cutting head were used for the comparison experiments. More detailed investigations are currently in progress.mirror design. 5. 6 and 8 mm thick stainless steel sheets were cut as shown in the histogram of figure 10.. As compared to the operation with an unstructured HR mirror. The work for higher powers (≥ 1 kW) is under progress. To the best of our knowledge. MATERIAL PROCESSING USING RADIALLY AND AZIMUTHALLY POLARIZED BEAMS As mentioned above radial polarization was predicted to increase the material processing efficiency in comparison to circular polarization especially in sheet metal cutting. The obtained results show an improved cutting efficiency for all cuts which confirms the prediction of Niziev et al.4 kW radially polarized CO2 laser whereas for the drilling experiments a radially or azimuthally polarized Nd:YAG rod laser was used.

3.4m/min E E U) R=6pm R=1 I pm C) radially polarized: 1. It is clearly seen that the roughness is significantly reduced in the case of radial polarization. 7131 71311I-8 . The penetration rate was 50% higher for azimuthal polarization.11 ms pulse duration. As expected the lower absorption of the azimuthally polarized radiation at the side walls is favorable for high rates of penetration. 200 mJ pulse energy and 45 Hz repletion rate.4 'E'3 E 0 I 3mm Figure 10: Cutting speed comparison between radial and circular polarization for different stainless steel sheet thicknesses II. azimuthally or radially polarized beams were reported to significantly enhance the drilling efficiency depending on the drilling method and the processed material.4mlmin Figure 11 Quality of cut edges for radial and circular polarization.3.2 Percussion drilling with Nd:YAG rod laser In micro-drilling experiments2. A 3 mm spring steel CK 101. Figure 12-a shows the obtained holes depth with the number of pulses. Figure 12-b shows an optical microscope picture of the drilling holes with radial and azimuthal polarizations for 150 pulses. of SPIE Vol. radial 5mm circular 6mm 8mm E E (0 U) R= 12 pm C) =2Opm circularly polarized: I . was drilled with 0. The high potential for percussion drilling of holes with high aspect ratio is clearly seen. In the following we report on a comparison of percussion drilling with radial and azimuthal polarization. Proc.

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