The Gas Laser
In laboratory settings, gas lasers (shown right) are often used to eveluate waveguides and other interated optical devices. Essentially, an electric charge is pumped through a gas in a tube as shown to produce a laser output. Gasses used will determine the wavelength and efficiency of the laser. Common choices include Helium, Neon, Argon ion, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, Excimer, Nitrogen and Hydrogen. The gas laser was first invented in 1960. Although gas lasers are still frequently used in lab setting sfor testing, they are not practical choices to encorperate into optical integrated circuits. The only practical light sources for optical integrated circuits are semiconductor lasers and light-emitting diodes.
The Laser Diode
The p-n junction laser diode is a strong choice for optical integrated circuits and in fiber-optic communications due to it’s small size, high reliability nd ease of construction. The laser diode is made of a p-type epitaxial growth layer on an n-type substrate. Parallel end faces may functions as mirrors to provide the system with optical feedback.
The Tunnel-Injection Laser
The tunnel-injection laser enjoys many of the best features of the p-n junction laser in it’s size, simplicity and low voltage supply. The tunnel-injection laser however does not make use of a junction and is instead made in a single crystal of uniformly-doped semiconductor material. The hole-electron pairs instead are injected into the semiconductor by tunneling and diffusion. If a p-type semiconductor is used, electrons are injected through the insulator by tunneling and if the semiconductor is n-type, then holes are tunneled through the insulator.