Microscopic modeling of ultrafast laser pulse generation
Since the first working lasers of the 1960s, laser technology has fascinated scientific and general audiences alike. We'll explore the historical development of lasers and their primary components, leading up to a highly promising modern laser design, VECSELs. These compact lasers can produce continuous wave and ultrafast pulses across a variety of wavelengths and their external cavities make them ideal test beds for spectroscopic, manufacturing, and astronomical applications. We'll discuss the various modeling tools used to understand, explore, and improve VECSELs, culminating with the transversally resolved Maxwell Semiconductor Bloch Equations. This model couples a first-principles quantum mechanical description of the gain media to a longitudinally, and transversally, resolved wave propagation equation discretized across the numerous layers and components of the laser cavity. We'll highlight the development of this model, its various successes and limitations, and the current push towards increasingly realistic cavity geometries.