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I am preparing for an applied optoelectronics exam and I am having some trouble with telling the differences between optical fiber laser and optical amplifier. For now I only came up with following differences:

  • No Bragg reflectors and optical resonators in amplifiers
  • No signal conversion in optical amplifiers

I'm pretty sure there's more to it but I couldn't find anything that would answer this question fully.

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The main difference between a fiber laser and a fiber amplifier is the cavity.

A laser (fiber laser or solid state laser) is an gain media, a pump and a cavity whereas a amplifier has no cavity. The cavity allow selecting the oscillating mode so there is no need to seed with a signal to generate a single frequency. Because it's initiated by noise. Whereas an amplifier need a signal seed.

You can make an analogy with Larcen effect. An audio amplifier acts just as its optical counterpart : it needs an input signal to amplify it. Now, if you get a microphone closer of the speaker plugged to the amplifier you form a loop and if unlucky you get that really annoying noise at a selected frequency.

For fiber laser, the cavity can be a ring cavity, a bragg cavity, or mirrors.

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