Plasmonic nanoparticles embedded in single crystals synthesized by gold ion implantation for enhanced optical nonlinearity and efficient Q-switched lasing†
We report on the synthesis of embedded gold (Au) nanoparticles (NPs) in Nd:YAG single crystals using ion implantation and subsequent thermal annealing. Both linear and nonlinear absorption of the Nd:YAG crystals have been enhanced significantly due to the embedded Au NPs, which is induced by the surface plasmon resonance (SPR) effect in the visible light wavelength band. Particularly, through a typical Z-scan system excited by a femtosecond laser at 515 nm within the SPR band, the nonlinear absorption coefficients of crystals with Au NPs have been observed to be nearly 5 orders of magnitude larger than that without Au NPs. This giant enhancement of nonlinear absorption properties is correlated with the saturable absorption (SA) effect, which is the basis of passive Q-switching or mode-locking for pulsed laser generation. In addition, the linear and nonlinear absorption enhancement could be tailored by varying the fluence of implanted Au+ ions, corresponding to the NP size and concentration modulation. Finally, the Nd:YAG wafer with embedded Au NPs has been applied as a saturable absorber in a Pr:LuLiF4 crystal laser cavity, and efficient pulsed laser generation at 639 nm has been realized, which presents superior performance to the MoS2 saturable absorber based system. This work opens an avenue to enhance and modulate the nonlinearities of dielectrics by embedding plasmonic Au NPs for efficient pulsed laser operation.