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Sci Rep. 2016 Mar 15;6:23053. doi: 10.1038/srep23053.

Frequency and amplitude modulation of ultra-compact terahertz quantum cascade lasers using an integrated avalanche diode oscillator.

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NEST, CNR - Istituto Nanoscienze and Scuola Normale Superiore, Piazza San Silvestro 12, 56127, Pisa, Italy.
School of Electronic and Electrical Engineering, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK.


Mode-locked comb sources operating at optical frequencies underpin applications ranging from spectroscopy and ultrafast physics, through to absolute frequency measurements and atomic clocks. Extending their operation into the terahertz frequency range would greatly benefit from the availability of compact semiconductor-based sources. However, the development of any compact mode-locked THz laser, which itself is inherently a frequency comb, has yet to be achieved without the use of an external stimulus. High-power, electrically pumped quantum cascade lasers (QCLs) have recently emerged as a promising solution, owing to their octave spanning bandwidths, the ability to achieve group-velocity dispersion compensation and the possibility of obtaining active mode-locking. Here, we propose an unprecedented compact architecture to induce both frequency and amplitude self-modulation in a THz QCL. By engineering a microwave avalanche oscillator into the laser cavity, which provides a 10 GHz self-modulation of the bias current and output power, we demonstrate multimode laser emission centered around 3 THz, with distinct multiple sidebands. The resulting microwave amplitude and frequency self-modulation of THz QCLs opens up intriguing perspectives, for engineering integrated self-mode-locked THz lasers, with impact in fields such as nano- and ultrafast photonics and optical metrology.

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