The term master oscillator fiber amplifier (MOFA, MOPFA, or fiber MOPA) is a variation of the term master oscillator power amplifier (MOPA), meaning a system where the power amplifier is a fiber amplifier. The latter is usually a cladding-pumped high-power amplifier, often based on an ytterbium-doped fiber. The main attractions of such fiber-based power amplifiers are:
- A high output power can be achieved with a high power efficiency.
- The cooling system can be relatively simple.
- The beam quality can be high; it is often close to diffraction-limited.
- The gain can easily be as high as tens of decibels. For comparison, most bulk amplifiers, particularly those with high average output power, have a much lower gain.
- master oscillator fiber amplifier (fiber MOPA)
However, the use of fibers also has disadvantages:
- Various kinds of fiber nonlinearities can make it difficult to reach very high peak powers and pulse energies in pulsed systems. For example, a few millijoules of pulse energy in a nanosecond pulse system are already considered high for a fiber device, whereas bulk lasers can provide much higher energies. In single-frequency systems, stimulated Brillouin scattering (SBS) can severely limit the output power.
- Due to the high gain, fiber amplifiers are relatively sensitive to back-reflections e.g. from a workpiece. At high power levels, it is not easy to use a Faraday isolator for solving this problem.
- The polarization state is often undefined and unstable, unless polarization-maintaining fibers are used.
- It can be attractive to use a gain-switched laser diode as seed laser for a fiber MOPA. Such devices compete with Q-switched lasers, e.g. for application in laser marking. Their advantages partly lie in their flexibility concerning output formats: it is easy to modify not only the pulse repetition rate but also the pulse duration and shape, and of the course the pulse energy.
A special aspect of MOFAs is that the saturation power even of a large mode area double-clad fiber is low compared with the typical output power. Therefore, the power extraction can be as efficient as in a fiber laser, even for relatively low seed powers.