Laser diode

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A laser diode is a laser where the active medium is a semiconductor similar to that found in a light-emitting diode. The most common type of laser diode is formed from a p-n junction and powered by injected electric current. The former devices are sometimes referred to as injection laser diodes to distinguish them from optically pumped laser diodes.


Theory of operation

A laser diode is formed by doping a very thin layer on the surface of a crystal wafer. The crystal is doped to produce an n-type region and a p-type region, one above the other, resulting in a p-n junction, or diode.

Laser diodes form a subset of the larger classification of semiconductor p-n junction diodes. Forward electrical bias across the laser diode causes the two species of charge carrierholes and electrons – to be "injected" from opposite sides of the p-n junction into the depletion region. Holes are injected from the p-doped, and electrons from the n-doped, semiconductor. (A depletion region, devoid of any charge carriers, forms as a result of the difference in electrical potential between n- and p-type semiconductors wherever they are in physical contact.) Due to the use of charge injection in powering most diode lasers, this class of lasers is sometimes termed "injection lasers," or "injection laser diode" (ILD). As diode lasers are semiconductor devices, they may also be classified as semiconductor lasers. Either designation distinguishes diode lasers from solid-state lasers.

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