Understanding Lasers An Entry Level Guide 4th ed.

By Jeff Hecht, published by John Wiley & Sons/IEEE Press

Extensively Revised Fourth edition out Jan 15, 2019

Laser technology has come a long ways since the last edition was published in 2008, so I have extensively revised Understanding Lasers to bring it up to date. The most obvious change is a new chapter on fiber lasers, which have come into wide use for industrial machining and other materials-working and high-power applications. I also expanded coverage of nonlinear optics, short-pulse generation, and techniques for generating new laser wavelengths. Less visibly, I updated the whole book with a decade's worth of advances in lasers and optics and new applications. Keeping up with that progress means the book has grown more than a hundred pages to 586 pages (including index). 

Available directly from John Wiley & Sons/IEEE Press 

Also Available from Amazon and other fine booksellers

What has not changed is the purpose of Understanding Lasers: to provide a user-friendly introduction to lasers and related optical technology. It is richly illustrated with line drawings that help explain the workings of lasers and optics. It includes little mathematics beyond basic algebra to understand this fascinating and important technology. I explain basic concepts, spelling out acronyms, and giving examples. I have been writing about laser technology for more than four decades, so I draw on an extensive background, including writing monthly review features and giving tutorial webcasts for Laser Focus World.  The book includes a glossary of laser terms, some suggested references and handy formulas, multiple choice quizzes so you can test your knowledge, and an index I fussed over because I want the book to be a useful reference. It's the sort of book I would have loved to have when I got started in lasers.

The table of contents is below. To read some of my laser articles, check out what I have written lately for Laser Focus World.


CHAPTER 1 Introduction and Overview 

1.1 Lasers, Optics, and Photonics 

1.2 Understanding the Laser 

1.3 What Is a Laser? 

1.4 Laser Materials and Types 

1.5 Optical Properties of Laser Light

1.6 How Lasers Are Used?

1.7 What Have We Learned?

CHAPTER 2 Physical Basics

2.1 Electromagnetic Waves and Photons

2.2 Quantum and Classical Physics 

2.3 Interactions of Light and Matter 

2.4 Basic Optics and Simple Lenses

2.5 Fiber Optics 

2.6 What Have We Learned?

CHAPTER 3 How Lasers Work 

3.1 Building a Laser

3.2 Producing a Population Inversion 

3.3 Resonant Cavities 

3.4 Laser Beams and Resonance

3.5 Wavelength Selection and Tuning

3.6 Laser Excitation and Efficiency 

3.7 What Have We Learned? 

CHAPTER 4 Laser Characteristics 

4.1 Coherence 

4.2 Laser Wavelengths

4.3 Properties of Laser Beams

4.4 Laser Power 

4.5 Laser Efficiency

4.6 Pulse Characteristics

4.7 Polarization 

4.8 What Have We Learned?

CHAPTER 5 Optics, Laser Accessories, and Measurements 

5.1 Classical Optical Devices

5.2 Optical Materials 

5.3 Optical Coatings and Filters 

5.4 Beam Delivery, Direction, and Propagation 

5.5 Mounting and Positioning Equipment 

5.6 Nonlinear Optics 

5.7 Beam Modulation and Output Control 

5.8 Measurements in Optics 

5.9 What Have We Learned? 

CHAPTER 6 Laser Types, Features, and Enhancements 

6.1 Perspectives on Laser Types 

6.2 Laser Media 

6.3 Pumping and Energy Storage 

6.4 Laser Pulse Characteristics 

6.5 Wavelength Conversion

6.6 Laser Oscillators and Optical Amplifiers 

6.7 Wavelength Options 

6.8 Laser-Like Light Sources 

6.9 What Have We Learned?

CHAPTER 7 Gas Lasers 

7.1 The Gas-Laser Family

7.2 Gas-Laser Basics 

7.3 Helium–Neon Lasers 

7.4 Argon- and Krypton-Ion Lasers 

7.5 Metal-Vapor Lasers 

7.6 Carbon Dioxide Lasers

7.7 Excimer Lasers 

7.8 Nitrogen Lasers 

7.9 Chemical Lasers

7.10 Other Gas Lasers

7.11 What Have We Learned? 

CHAPTER 8 Solid-State Lasers

8.1 What Is a Solid-State Laser?

8.2 Solid-State Laser Materials

8.3 Solid-State Laser Configurations

8.4 Major Solid-State Laser Materials 

8.5 Optically Pumped Semiconductor Lasers

8.6 Broadband and Tunable Solid-State Lasers

8.7 Pulsed Solid-State Lasers 

8.8 What Have We Learned? 

CHAPTER 9 Fiber Lasers and Amplifiers 

9.1 What Are Fiber Lasers? 

9.2 Optical Fiber Structures 

9.3 Fiber Laser Design and Efficiency 

9.4 Rare-Earth-Doped Fiber Lasers 

9.5 Rare-Earth-Doped Fiber Amplifiers 

9.6 Raman Fiber Lasers and Amplifiers

9.7 What Have We Learned? 

CHAPTER 10 Diode and Other Semiconductor Lasers 

10.1 Types of Semiconductor Lasers 

10.2 Development of Diode Lasers 

10.3 Semiconductor Basics 

10.4 Comparing LED and Diode-Laser Emission 

10.5 Confining Light and Current 

10.6 Edge-Emitting Diode Lasers

10.7 Surface-Emitting Diode Lasers

10.8 Optical Properties of Diode Lasers 

10.9 Diode-Laser Materials and Wavelengths 

10.10 Quantum Cascade Lasers and Related Types 

10.11 What Have We Learned?

CHAPTER 11 Other Lasers and Laser-Like Sources

11.1 Tunable Dye Lasers 

11.2 Optical Parametric Sources 

11.3 Supercontinuum Sources 

11.4 Frequency Combs 

11.5 Extreme Ultraviolet Sources 

11.6 Free-Electron Lasers 

11.7 What Have We Learned?

CHAPTER 12 Low-Power Laser Applications 

12.1 Advantages of Laser Light 

12.2 Reading with Lasers 

12.3 Optical Disks and Data Storage 

12.4 Laser Printing 

12.5 Lasers in Fiber-Optic Communications 

12.6 Laser Measurement 

12.7 Laser Light Shows, Pointers, and Projection Displays 

12.8 Low-Power Defense Applications 

12.9 Sensing and Spectroscopy 

12.10 Holography 

12.11 Other Low-Power Applications 

12.12 What Have We Learned? 

CHAPTER 13 High-Power Laser Applications 

13.1 High- Versus Low-Power Laser Applications 

13.2 Attractions of High-Power Lasers 

13.3 Important Considerations and Trends 

13.4 Materials Working 

13.5 Additive Manufacturing and Three-Dimensional Printing 

13.6 Semiconductor Electronics Fabrication

13.7 Laser Medical Treatment 

13.8 Photochemistry and Isotope Separation 

13.9 Laser-Driven Nuclear Fusion 

13.10 High-Energy Laser Weapons

13.11 What Have We Learned? 

CHAPTER 14 Lasers in Research 

14.1 Lasers Open New Opportunities 

14.2 Laser Spectroscopy 

14.3 Manipulating Tiny Objects 

14.4 Atom Lasers and Bose–Einstein Condensates

14.5 Detection of Gravitational Waves 

14.6 Laser Guide Stars for Astronomy

14.7 Slow Light

14.8 Nanoscale Lasers 

14.9 Strange Lasers 

14.10 Extreme Power Ultrashort Pulse Lasers 

14.11 X-Ray Free-Electron Lasers 

14.12 Other Emerging Research 

14.13 What Have We Learned? 

Answers to Quiz Questions 

Appendix A: Laser Safety 

Appendix B: Handy Numbers and Formulas 

Appendix C: Resources and Suggested Readings



© Jeff Hecht 2019