Laser Diodes with Increased Optical and Electrical Efficiency

A system and method to increase semiconductor laser diode efficiency, with a concomitant reduction in heat generation and wavelength stability during operation


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The US Army Research Laboratory (ARL) is a leader in developing innovative photonics solutions, including solid-state semiconductor lasers, with improved efficiency and stability enabled through current channeling.  While other researchers seek new ways to deal with excess heat in semiconductor lasers through sinks and improved materials, ARL’s unique approach is based upon the fundamental idea that it is better to minimize heat generation in the first place.  The invention utilizes current channels, blocking areas, or engineered material strips to direct the current injected into the optical cavity to the anti-nodal region of the standing wave, where it maximizes the efficiency of the laser (~ 20-30% improvement in efficiency).  It restricts current flow to the nodal area, which produces heat and does not contribute to the optical field.  The invented semiconductor laser diode has a wide range of uses that include fiber optic communications, barcode readers, laser pointers, CD/DVD/Blu-ray Disc reading and recording, laser printing, laser scanning, and increasingly, directional lighting sources.

The ARL approach can be employed in continuous wave (cw) or pulse modes, and can be useful in a range of power levels. However, it is particularly useful for applications that require high power/ efficiency and wavelength stability (i.e., welding applications). This new method of semiconductor laser fabrication is applicable to, but not limited to, diode laser material systems common to the industry, such as GaAlAs, AlGaInP, AlGaAsP and InGaN.  Standard semiconductor fabrication techniques can be utilized.  Additionally, the design can be optimized for specific applications. Modeling can be used to determine the size and placement of channels or strips and the selection of materials.  Once set up, economies of scale can be achieved to improve production costs.

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