A solid-state laser is a laser that uses a gain medium that is a solid, rather than a liquid such as in dye lasers or a gas as in gas lasers. Semiconductor-based lasers are also in the solid state, but are generally considered as a separate class from solid-state lasers (see Semiconductor laser).
Solid-state media Edit
Generally, the active medium of a solid-state laser consists of a glass or crystalline host material to which is added a dopant such as neodymium, chromium, erbium, or other ions. Many of the common dopants are rare earth elements, because the excited states of such ions are not strongly coupled with thermal vibrations of the crystalline lattice (phonons), and the lasing threshold can be reached at relatively low brightness of pump.
There are many hundreds of solid-state media in which laser action has been achieved, but relatively few types are in widespread use. Of these, probably the most common type is neodymium-doped YAG. Neodymium-doped glass (Nd:glass) and ytterbium-doped glasses and ceramics are used in solid-state lasers at extremely high power (terawatt scale), high energy (megajoules) multiple beam systems for inertial confinement fusion. Titanium-doped sapphire is also widely used for its broad tunability.
The first material used for lasing was ruby. Ruby lasers are still used for some applications, but are not common due to their low efficiency. Er:YAG lasers lase in the mid-infrared.
Solid state lasing media are typically optically pumped, using either a flashlamp or arc lamp, or by laser diodes. Diode-pumped solid-state lasers tend to be much more efficient, and have become much more common as the cost of high power semiconductor lasers has decreased.