Complex lasers with controllable coherence

Hui Cao, Ronen Chriki, Stefan Bittner, Asher A. Friesem, Nir Davidson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Lasers have enabled scientific and technological progress, owing to their high brightness and high coherence. However, the high spatial coherence of laser illumination is not always desirable, because it can cause adverse artefacts such as speckle noise. To reduce spatial coherence, new laser cavity geometries and alternative feedback mechanisms have been developed. By tailoring the spatial and spectral properties of cavity resonances, the number of lasing modes, the emission profiles and the coherence properties can be controlled. In this Technical Review, we present an overview of such unconventional, complex lasers, with a focus on their spatial coherence properties. Laser coherence control not only provides an efficient means for eliminating coherent artefacts but also enables new applications in imaging and wavefront shaping. High spatial coherence of laser illumination is not always desirable, because it can cause adverse artefacts such as speckle noise. This Technical Review describes unconventional lasers that have inherently low and/or tunable spatial coherence. Key pointsHigh spatial coherence of laser emission, a common feature of conventional lasers, causes deleterious effects, including speckle noise and crosstalk, in applications such as full-field imaging, display, materials processing, photolithography, holography and optical trapping.Fundamental changes in laser design or operation are more effective than schemes to reduce the spatial coherence outside of the laser cavity to achieve low or tunable spatial coherence.Random lasers and wave-chaotic microcavity lasers support numerous lasing modes with distinct spatial profiles, producing emission of low spatial coherence suitable for speckle-free, full-field imaging and spatial coherence gating.The number of modes and thus spatial coherence of degenerate cavity laser emission can be tuned with little change in power, allowing fast switching between speckle-free imaging and speckle-contrast imaging.Wavefront shaping inside a degenerate cavity laser can generate propagation-invariant output beams or spin-dependent twisted light beams. The dynamic wavefront control can focus laser light through a random scattering medium.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)156-168
Number of pages13
JournalNature Reviews Physics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2019


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