I want to add that the entire commercial free-space optics industry is focused on using semiconductor lasers because of their relatively small size, high power, and cost efficiency. Most of these lasers are also used in fiber optics; therefore, availability is not a problem. From the semiconductor design point of view, two different laser structures are available: edge emitting lasers and surface-emitting lasers. With an edge emitter, the light leaves the structure through a small window of the active layer and parallel to the layer structure. Surface emitters radiate through a small window perpendicular to the layer structure. Edge emitters can produce high power. More than 100 milliwatts at modulation speeds higher than 1 GHz are commercially available in the 850 nm wavelength range. The beam profile of edge-emitting diodes is not symmetrical. A typical value for this elliptical radiation output pattern is 20 × 35 degrees. This specific feature can cause a problem when the output power has to be coupled efficiently into a fiber and external optics such as cylindrical lenses are used to increase the coupling efficiency. Surface-emitting diodes typically produce less power output. However, the beam pattern is close to being symmetrical or round. A typical value for the beam divergence angle is 12 degrees. This feature is beneficial for coupling light into a (round) optical fiber. Besides discussing basic designs of semiconductor lasers, we will also provide information regarding WDM laser sources and look into Erbium Doped Fiber Amplifiers/lasers that have been discussed recently for use in FSO systems.
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