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Definition Of A Laser Threshold.
Published 1994 · Physics, Medicine
We propose that the threshold of a laser is more appropriately described by the pump power (or current) needed to bring the mean cavity photon number to unity, rather than the conventional ``definition'' that it is the pump power at which the optical gain equals the cavity loss. In general the two definitions agree to within a factor of 2, but in a class of microcavity lasers with high spontaneous emission coupling efficiency and high absorption loss, the definitions may differ by several orders of magnitude. We show that in this regime the laser undergoes a transition from a linear (amplifier) behavior to a nonlinear (oscillatory) behavior at our proposed threshold pump rate. The photon recycling resulting from the high spontaneous emission coupling efficiency and high absorption may in this case result in lasing without population inversion, and coherent light is generated via ``loss saturation'' instead of gain saturation. This mechanism for lasing without inversion is very different from lasing without inversion using a radiation trapped state.