Picosecond Microchip Laser

  • 500 ps Pulse Duration at 1030 nm
  • 45 µJ Typical Pulse Energy
  • High Quality Beam Profile (M2 < 1.2)
  • 9 kHz Typical Repetition Rate


1030 nm Q-Switched Microchip Controller and Laser Head

Application Idea

The QSL103A laser marking a stainless steel plate; plasma formation can be seen at the focus.

Related Items

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QSL Mounted
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Laser-Drilled Hole Through a 100 µm Thick Aluminum Sheet
QSL Collimating Lens
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An AC127-075-B achromatic doublet lens is mounted on the laser head using a CP1XY cage plate and ER1.5 cage rods.


  • Material Processing
  • Photoacoustic Imaging
  • Fluorescence Lifetime Imaging
  • Harmonic Generation
  • Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy
Key Specifications
Center Wavelength 1030 nm ± 1 nm
Average Output Powera 350 - 450 mW
Repetition Ratea 8 - 10 kHz
Pulse Energya 40 - 50 µJ
Output Peak Power >80 kW
Pulse Durationa 500 ps ± 100 ps
  • This spec is a fixed value for each device, but it varies within this range from one device to another. 
QSL Mounted
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To increase the beam height, the QSL103A laser head can be mounted on a raised optical breadboard. Pictured here is the laser head fixed to an MB6U breadboard raised by RS1.5P 1.5" tall, Ø1" pedestal pillars.


  • 1030 nm Center Wavelength
  • 500 ps ± 100 ps Pulse Duration
  • Compatible with 30 mm Cage System
  • Integrated Control Electronics
  • Trigger Output for Pulse Monitoring

Thorlabs' QSL103A Q-Switched Picosecond Microchip Laser is a compact laser system designed to provide a turnkey, alignment-free solution for picosecond pulses at 1030 nm. Featuring a compact microchip laser cavity with a fiber-coupled pump laser, this source produces a high-quality beam (M2 < 1.2) with high pulse energies at a kHz repetition rate, making it ideal for material processing applications or harmonic generation. For full performance specifications, please see the Specs tab. Each picosecond laser system includes a head and a controller that have integrated drive electronics, temperature stabilization, and safety interlocks. The picosecond laser head also includes a manual-slide shutter, which can be used to cover the laser aperture.

Optical Emission
The output from this source has a 10 mrad divergence to allow for flexibility in the beam diameter. The laser head features SM05 (0.535"-40) internal threading on the beam aperture, as well as 4-40 threads for compatibility with our 30 mm cage components, for easy integration of an external collimating lens (see image on the top right). To compensate for any beam misalignment at the laser output, the collimating lens should be mounted in a cage plate with XY translation.

For external beam attenuation, we recommend using Thorlabs' neutral density filters. A SHB025 diaphragm shutter mounted in a SHCP025 adapter (for cage system compatibility) can also be added in front of the laser aperture to remotely block the laser output.

The QSL103A laser head can be mounted to an optical table or breadboard using the 8-32 (M4) or 1/4"-20 (M6) clearance holes included on the housing. With an output beam height of 0.98" (25.0 mm), some applications may require the laser head to be mounted on a raised breadboard; see the image to the bottom right for an example.

Electrical Connections
Each QSL103A laser system is shipped with an umbilical cable for connecting the laser head and controller. This laser system integrates all required drive electronics, safety interlocks, and temperature stabilization needed for operation; a block diagram with more details can be found on the Specs tab. Note that the power supply is built into the unit and a region-specific power cord is included with each laser.

Panel Features
A trigger out (SMA female) is included on the laser head, which can be used for monitoring the output pulse and repetition rate, as well as for timing the arrival of a pulse with an electronic trigger. An indicator LED is also included for the laser emission.

All required safety features are included with the controller, including key switch, interlock pin, and momentary switch to enable the laser output; see the Front & Back Panels tab for more details on the panel features. Note that the controller front panel includes dual color (red/green) status LEDs for the TEC and laser emission status, which are designed to be visible through most safety glasses

Item # QSL103A
Average Output Power 350 - 450 mW
Repetition Ratea 8 - 10 kHz
Pulse Energya 40 - 50 µJ
Output Peak Power >80 kW
Pulse Durationa 500 ps ± 100 ps
Typical Pulse (Typical)b QSL103A Typical Pulse
Center Wavelength 1030 nm ± 1 nm
Output Spectrum (Typical)b QSL103A Typical Spectrum
Power Stability <1% over 8 hours
Beam Diameter (1/e2), at 100 mm 3 mm
Beam Divergence (1/e2), Typical 10 mrad
Beam Quality (M2) <1.2
Beam Profile (Typical at 150 mm) QSL103A Beam Profile
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  • This spec is a fixed value for each device, but it varies within this range from one device to another.
Power, Environmental, and Physical Specifications
AC Input Frequency Range to Power Supply 50 - 60 Hz
AC Input Voltage to Power Supply 100 V to 250 VAC
Power Consumption (Typical) 22 W
Trigger Out 1 VPP, 50 Ω
Relative Trigger Jitter <10 ps
Optical Repetition Rate Jitter 200 - 300 Hz
Operating Temperature Range 10 to 45 °C
Storage Temperature Range 0 to 60 °C
Laser Head Weight 0.8 kg
Laser Controller Weight 1.7 kg
Laser Head Dimensions 136.3 mm x 88.9 mm x 47.1 mm
(5.37" x 3.50" x 1.85")
Laser Controller Dimensions 307.4 mm x 299.9 mm x 84.0 mm
(12.10" x 11.81" x 3.31")
QSL Block Diagram
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Block diagram depicting the internal architecture of the laser control system with drive electronics, safety interlocks, and temperature stabilization. The dual color TEC LED indicator (red/green) blinks during the 45 to 90 s warm up and glows continuously when temperature stability has been achieved.

Laser Head Front and Back Panels

Front Panel
Call Out Description
1 Laser Aperture with SM05 (0.535”-40) Internal Threads
2 Manual Shutter
3 4-40 Threads Spaced for 30 mm Cage Compatibility (4 Places)
Back Panel
Call Out Description
1 Receptacle for Umbilical Cable to Laser Controller
2 Trigger Out (Female SMA)
3 Laser Emission Indicator LED

Controller Front and Back Panels

Front Panel
Call Out Description
1 Interlock Key Switch
2 TEC Status LED
3 Laser Emission Status LED
4 Laser Enable Switch
Back Panel
Call Out Description
1 Main Power Switch
2 Interlock Connector
3 Fuse Holder
4 AC Power Cord Connector
5 Interlock Error Status LED
6 Head Error Status LED
7 Receptacle for Umbilical Cable for Laser Head

Laser Safety and Classification

Safe practices and proper usage of safety equipment should be taken into consideration when operating lasers. The eye is susceptible to injury, even from very low levels of laser light. Thorlabs offers a range of laser safety accessories that can be used to reduce the risk of accidents or injuries. Laser emission in the visible and near infrared spectral ranges has the greatest potential for retinal injury, as the cornea and lens are transparent to those wavelengths, and the lens can focus the laser energy onto the retina. 

Laser Glasses Laser Curtains Blackout Materials
Enclosure Systems Laser Viewing Cards Alignment Tools
Shutter and Controllers Laser Safety Signs

Safe Practices and Light Safety Accessories

  • Laser safety eyewear must be worn whenever working with Class 3 or 4 lasers.
  • Thorlabs recommends the use of laser safety eyewear whenever working with laser beams with non-negligible powers (i.e., < Class 2) since metallic tools such as screwdrivers can accidentally redirect a beam.
  • Laser goggles designed for specific wavelengths should be clearly available near laser setups to protect the wearer from unintentional laser reflections.
  • Goggles are marked with the wavelength range over which protection is afforded and the minimum optical density within that range.
  • Laser Safety Curtains and Laser Safety Fabric shield other parts of the lab from high energy lasers.
  • Blackout Materials can prevent direct or reflected light from leaving the experimental setup area.
  • Thorlabs' Enclosure Systems can be used to contain optical setups to isolate or minimize laser hazards.
  • A fiber-pigtailed laser should always be turned off before connecting it to or disconnecting it from another fiber, especially when the laser is at power levels above 10 mW.
  • All beams should be terminated at the edge of the table, and laboratory doors should be closed whenever a laser is in use.
  • Do not place laser beams at eye level.
  • Carry out experiments on an optical table such that all laser beams travel horizontally.
  • Remove unnecessary reflective items such as reflective jewelry (e.g., rings, watches, etc.) while working near the beam path.
  • Be aware that lenses and other optical devices may reflect a portion of the incident beam from the front or rear surface.
  • Operate a laser at the minimum power necessary for any operation.
  • If possible, reduce the output power of a laser during alignment procedures.
  • Use beam shutters and filters to reduce the beam power.
  • Post appropriate warning signs or labels near laser setups or rooms.
  • Use a laser sign with a lightbox if operating Class 3R or 4 lasers (i.e., lasers requiring the use of a safety interlock).
  • Do not use Laser Viewing Cards in place of a proper Beam Trap.


Laser Classification

Lasers are categorized into different classes according to their ability to cause eye and other damage. The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) is a global organization that prepares and publishes international standards for all electrical, electronic, and related technologies. The IEC document 60825-1 outlines the safety of laser products. A description of each class of laser is given below:

Class Description Warning Label
1 This class of laser is safe under all conditions of normal use, including use with optical instruments for intrabeam viewing. Lasers in this class do not emit radiation at levels that may cause injury during normal operation, and therefore the maximum permissible exposure (MPE) cannot be exceeded. Class 1 lasers can also include enclosed, high-power lasers where exposure to the radiation is not possible without opening or shutting down the laser.  Class 1
1M Class 1M lasers are safe except when used in conjunction with optical components such as telescopes and microscopes. Lasers belonging to this class emit large-diameter or divergent beams, and the MPE cannot normally be exceeded unless focusing or imaging optics are used to narrow the beam. However, if the beam is refocused, the hazard may be increased and the class may be changed accordingly.  Class 1M
2 Class 2 lasers, which are limited to 1 mW of visible continuous-wave radiation, are safe because the blink reflex will limit the exposure in the eye to 0.25 seconds. This category only applies to visible radiation (400 - 700 nm).  Class 2
2M Because of the blink reflex, this class of laser is classified as safe as long as the beam is not viewed through optical instruments. This laser class also applies to larger-diameter or diverging laser beams.  Class 2M
3R Lasers in this class are considered safe as long as they are handled with restricted beam viewing. The MPE can be exceeded with this class of laser, however, this presents a low risk level to injury. Visible, continuous-wave lasers are limited to 5 mW of output power in this class.  Class 3R
3B Class 3B lasers are hazardous to the eye if exposed directly. However, diffuse reflections are not harmful. Safe handling of devices in this class includes wearing protective eyewear where direct viewing of the laser beam may occur. In addition, laser safety signs lightboxes should be used with lasers that require a safety interlock so that the laser cannot be used without the safety light turning on. Class-3B lasers must be equipped with a key switch and a safety interlock.  Class 3B
4 This class of laser may cause damage to the skin, and also to the eye, even from the viewing of diffuse reflections. These hazards may also apply to indirect or non-specular reflections of the beam, even from apparently matte surfaces. Great care must be taken when handling these lasers. They also represent a fire risk, because they may ignite combustible material. Class 4 lasers must be equipped with a key switch and a safety interlock.  Class 4
All class 2 lasers (and higher) must display, in addition to the corresponding sign above, this triangular warning sign  Warning Symbol

Pulsed Laser Emission: Power and Energy Calculations

Determining whether emission from a pulsed laser is compatible with a device or application can require referencing parameters that are not supplied by the laser's manufacturer. When this is the case, the necessary parameters can typically be calculated from the available information. Calculating peak pulse power, average power, pulse energy, and related parameters can be necessary to achieve desired outcomes including:

  • Protecting biological samples from harm.
  • Measuring the pulsed laser emission without damaging photodetectors and other sensors.
  • Exciting fluorescence and non-linear effects in materials.

Pulsed laser radiation parameters are illustrated in Figure 1 and described in the table. For quick reference, a list of equations are provided below. The document available for download provides this information, as well as an introduction to pulsed laser emission, an overview of relationships among the different parameters, and guidance for applying the calculations. 



Period and repetition rate are reciprocal:    and 
Pulse energy calculated from average power:       
Average power calculated from pulse energy:        
Peak pulse power estimated from pulse energy:            

Peak power and average power calculated from each other:
Peak power calculated from average power and duty cycle*:
*Duty cycle () is the fraction of time during which there is laser pulse emission.
Pulsed Laser Emission Parameters
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Figure 1: Parameters used to describe pulsed laser emission are indicated in the plot (above) and described in the table (below). Pulse energy (E) is the shaded area under the pulse curve. Pulse energy is, equivalently, the area of the diagonally hashed region. 

Parameter Symbol Units Description
Pulse Energy E Joules [J] A measure of one pulse's total emission, which is the only light emitted by the laser over the entire period. The pulse energy equals the shaded area, which is equivalent to the area covered by diagonal hash marks.
Period Δt  Seconds [s]  The amount of time between the start of one pulse and the start of the next.
Average Power Pavg Watts [W] The height on the optical power axis, if the energy emitted by the pulse were uniformly spread over the entire period.
Instantaneous Power P Watts [W] The optical power at a single, specific point in time.
Peak Power Ppeak Watts [W] The maximum instantaneous optical power output by the laser.
Pulse Width Seconds [s] A measure of the time between the beginning and end of the pulse, typically based on the full width half maximum (FWHM) of the pulse shape. Also called pulse duration.
Repetition Rate frep Hertz [Hz] The frequency with which pulses are emitted. Equal to the reciprocal of the period.

Example Calculation:

Is it safe to use a detector with a specified maximum peak optical input power of 75 mW to measure the following pulsed laser emission?

  • Average Power: 1 mW
  • Repetition Rate: 85 MHz
  • Pulse Width: 10 fs

The energy per pulse:

seems low, but the peak pulse power is:

It is not safe to use the detector to measure this pulsed laser emission, since the peak power of the pulses is >5 orders of magnitude higher than the detector's maximum peak optical input power.

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Q-Switched Picosecond Microchip Laser

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QSL103A Support Documentation
QSL103ANEW!1030 nm Q-Switched Microchip Laser System, 9 kHz Rep. Rate (Typ.)