Dispersive heterodyne probing method for laser frequency stabilization based on spectral hole burning in rare-earth doped crystals
Frequency-locking a laser to a spectral hole in rare-earth doped crystals at cryogenic temperature has been shown to be a promising alternative to the use of high finesse Fabry-Perot cavities when seeking a very high short term stability laser (M. J. Thorpe et al., Nature Photonics 5, 688 (2011)). We demonstrate here a novel technique for achieving such stabilization, based on generating a heterodyne beat-note between a master laser and a slave laser whose dephasing caused by propagation near a spectral hole generate the error signal of the frequency lock. The master laser is far detuned from the center of the inhomogeneous absorption profile, and therefore exhibits only limited interaction with the crystal despite a potentially high optical power. The demodulation and frequency corrections are generated digitally with a hardware and software implementation based on a field-programmable gate array and a Software Defined Radio platform, making it straightforward to addre ss several frequency channels (spectral holes) in parallel.