Design and development of an external cavity diode laser for laser cooling and spectroscopy applications
Thesis (MSc (Physics))--University of Stellenbosch, 2006.
External cavity diode lasers are used increasingly as sources of light in applications ranging from industrial photonic systems to basic laboratory research on the interaction of light and atoms. External cavity diode lasers offer more stable output frequency and narrow spectral bandwidth than the typical free-running diode lasers. These characteristics are achieved by exploiting the sensitivity of diode lasers to external optical feedback. In this study the design and development of an external cavity diode laser system for future applications in spectroscopy and laser cooling of rubidium atoms is presented. The external cavity diode laser including mechanical components and control electronics of the system is developed from basic components. The system uses frequency selective optical feedback from a diffraction grating in a Littrow configuration to provide collimated, narrow-band, frequency tunable light near 780 nm. The external cavity diode laser is designed to increase the mode-hop-free frequency tuning range, and allow accurate frequency tuning and stabilisation. A low-noise current source and a temperature controller for thermal stability were developed as part of the system since the output frequency changes with temperature and current. The temperature controller is optimised experimentally for the thermal characteristics of the external cavity. An electronic sidelock servo circuit for frequency locking of the external cavity diode laser to an external reference for long term frequency stabilisation is proposed and discussed. The servo circuit electrically controls the grating tilt and the current through the diode laser in order to lock the frequency of the diode laser. The external cavity diode laser is optimised and characterised near 780 nm. Results obtained in this study indicate that the external cavity diode laser is suitable for future applications in spectroscopy and laser cooling of neutral rubidium atoms.