Widely tunable terahertz semiconductor laser sources
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Terahertz Quantum Cascade Lasers (THz QCLs) and Terahertz Difference Frequency Generation Quantum Cascade Laser sources (DFG-QCLs) are two types of semiconductor THz radiation sources that are compact and amenable to production in mass quantities. THz QCL can generate over 1W of power under cryogenic temperatures, while THz DFG-QCL can be operated under room temperature over 1mW level output. For either case, widely tunable solution is highly desired for spectroscopy applications. For THz QCLs, operation is still limited to cryogenic temperature and broad tuning is not available. Our experimental study shows that using variable barriers is a viable approach to enhance the design space for THz QCLs. We also propose to tune the spectral output of these devices using an optically projected variable distributed feedback grating. Tuning will be achieved by changing the projected grating period. Preliminary experimental results support the idea but higher pumping light intensity is required for this method to work. For THz DFG-QCLs, very broad tuning in 1-6 THz range has been demonstrated using rotating diffraction grating in an external cavity setup. Similar tuning range can also be achieved in a monolithic configuration. Based on the previous work which demonstrated an electrical monolithic tuner with 580 GHz tuning range, we design and test in this dissertation a linear array of 10 DFG-QCL devices to cover a 2 THz tuning range. An independent gain control scheme is developed to achieve high yield (~100%) of individual device. It is implemented via independent current pumping of two electrically isolated sections. Surface DFB grating and independent current pumping scheme used in our DFG QCLs is found to be useful for mid-IR QCL array sources. We propose a longitudinal integration scheme of multiple grating sections. It enables a single ridge to emit single mode radiation at different wavelengths upon selection. This helps to reduce mid-IR QCL array far field span. We demonstrated single ridge devices that can emit 2 or 3 different wavelengths upon selection.