Quantum cascade lasers: Ultrahigh-speed operation, optical wireless communication, narrow linewidth, and far-infrared emission

Federico Capasso, Roberto Paiella, Rainer Martini, Raffaele Colombelli, Claire Gmachl, Tanya L. Myers, Matthew S. Taubman, Richard M. Williams, Clyde G. Bethea, Karl Unterrainer, Harold Y. Hwang, Deborah L. Sivco, Alfred Y. Cho, A. Michael Sergent, H. C. Liu, Edward A. Whittaker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

318 Scopus citations


Following an introduction to the history of the invention of the quantum cascade (QC) laser and of the band-structure engineering advances that have led to laser action over most of the mid-infrared (IR) and part of the far-IR spectrum, the paper provides a comprehensive review of recent developments that will likely enable important advances in areas such as optical communications, ultrahigh resolution spectroscopy and applications to ultrahigh sensitivity gas-sensing systems. We discuss the experimental observation of the remarkably different frequency response of QC lasers compared to diode lasers, i.e., the absence of relaxation oscillations, their high-speed digital modulation, and results on mid-IR optical wireless communication links, which demonstrate the possibility of reliably transmitting complex multimedia data streams. Ultrashort pulse generation by gain switching and active and passive modelocking is subsequently discussed. Recent data on the linewidth of free-running QC lasers (∼ 150 kHz) and their frequency stabilization down to 10 kHz are presented. Experiments on the relative frequency stability (∼ 5 Hz) of two QC lasers locked to optical cavities are discussed. Finally, developments in metallic waveguides with surface plasmon modes, which have enabled extension of the operating wavelength to the far IR are reported.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)511-532
Number of pages22
JournalIEEE Journal of Quantum Electronics
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2002
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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