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Definition

laser diode (injection laser or diode laser)

Also see diode.

A laser diode, also known as an injection laser or diode laser, is a semiconductor device that produces coherent radiation (in which the waves are all at the same frequency and phase) in the visible or infrared (IR) spectrum when current passes through it. Laser diodes are used in optical fiber systems, compact disc (CD) players, laser printers, remote-control devices, and intrusion detection systems.

Laser diodes differ from conventional lasers, such as the helium-neon (He-Ne), ruby, and gas types, in several ways.

  • Small size and weight: A typical laser diode measures less than one millimeter across and weighs a fraction of a gram, making it ideal for use in portable electronic equipment.

  • Low current, voltage, and power requirements: Most laser diodes require only a few milliwatts of power at 3 to 12 volts DC and several milliamperes. Therefore, they can operate using small battery power supplies.

  • Low intensity: A laser diode cannot be used for spectacular purposes such as burning holes in metal, bringing down satellites, or blinding aircraft pilots. Nevertheless, its coherent output results in high efficiency and ease of modulation for communications and control applications.

  • Wide-angle beam: A laser diode produces a "cone" rather than a "pencil" of visible light or IR, although this "cone" can be collimated using convex lenses.

This was last updated in April 2005

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