Laser Fundamentals

  • Fred E. Lytle
Part of the Contemporary Instrumentation and Analysis book series (CIA)


For the purpose of the following discussion a laser will be considered to have three subunits–an optical amplifier, an excited state pump, and an optical resonator. The optical amplifier is the collection of atoms, ions, or molecules that have a non-Boltzmann distribution of energy among some set of quantum states. This population inversion, as it is called, has the unique property of amplifying certain frequencies of light via the stimulated emission of radiation. The excited state pump is the device or mechanism used to generate and maintain the population inversion. The exact approach used to accomplish this task depends upon the details of the energy levels and the matrix in which the atom, ion, or molecule is found. The resonator is used to convert the amplifier into an optical oscillator. Although this final step may seem to involve only passive components, the resultant laser radiation has many properties that owe primarily to the resonator design. Thus, a complete description of operating principles must include treatment of all three laser subunits.


Spontaneous Emission Output Coupler Population Inversion Optical Amplifier Photon Density 
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  1. R. L. Byer and V. R. Costich, Applied Optics 6, 578 (1967).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. B. A. Lengyel, Lasers, 2nd ed., Wiley-Interscience, New York, 1971. This is an excellent textbook for someone just entering the field. It is particularly good on basic laser design and excited-state pumping mechanisms.Google Scholar
  3. R. Louden, The Quantum Theory of Light, Clarendon Press, London, 1973. This is an excellent intermediate level textbook concerned with the quantum nature of optical processes.Google Scholar
  4. D. Ross, Lasers Light Amplifiers and Oscillators, Academic Press, London, 1969. This is an intermediate level textbook that contains over 4000 references and a compendium of laser transitions.Google Scholar
  5. A. E. Siegman, An Introduction to Lasers and Masers, McGraw-Hill, New York, 1971. This is an excellent textbook written from an electrical engineering viewpoint. It is particularly good for gain calculations and arguments involving electric susceptibilities.Google Scholar
  6. A. Yariv, Introduction to Optical Electronics, 2nd ed., Holt, Reinhart and Winston, New York, 1971. This textbook has a good treatment of the propagation of Gaussian beams and optical resonator design.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The HUMANA Press Inc. 1981

Authors and Affiliations

  • Fred E. Lytle
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of ChemistryPurdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA

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