Characterization and applications of auto-locked vacuum-sealed diode lasers for precision metrology
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We demonstrate the performance characteristics of a new class of vacuum-sealed, autolocking diode laser systems and their applications to precision metrology. The laser is based on adaptations of a design that uses optical feedback from an interference filter and it includes a vacuum-sealed cavity, an interchangeable base-plate, and an autolocking digital controller. A change of the base-plate allows operation at desired wavelengths in the visible and near infrared spectral range, whereas the autolocking ability allows the laser to be tuned and frequency stabilized with respect to atomic, molecular, and solid-state resonances without human intervention using a variety of control algorithms programmed into the same controller. We characterize the frequency stability of this laser system based on the Allan deviation (ADEV) of the beat note and of the lock signal. We find that the ADEV floor of 2 × 10−12 and short-term linewidth of ∼200 kHz are strongly influenced by current noise and vacuum sealing. Reducing the current noise and cavity pressure decreases the ADEV floor and increases the averaging time at which the floor occurs, which is a signature of long-term stability. We also show that evacuating the cavity to ∼1 Torr reduces the range of the correction signal of the feedback loop by approximately one order of magnitude, thereby increasing the lock range of the controller. The long-term stability allows the laser to be incorporated into a commercial gravimeter for accurate measurements of gravitational acceleration at the level of a few parts-per-billion, which are comparable to values obtained with an iodine-stabilized He–Ne laser. The autolocking and pattern-matching features of the controller allow the laser to be tuned and stabilized with respect to a temperature tunable transmission spectrum of a fiber-Bragg grating. This capability may be suitable for the development of a differential absorption LIDAR transmitter that can generate data at both on-line and off-line lock points using a single laser.