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We develop a general approach to including the internal optical loss in the description of semiconductor lasers with a quantum-confined active region. We assume that the internal absorption loss coefficient is linear in the free-carrier density in the optical confinement layer and is characterized by two parameters, the constant component and the net cross section for all absorption loss processes. We show that, in any structure where the free-carrier density does not pin in the presence of light generation, the free-carrier-density dependence of internal loss gives rise to the existence of a second lasing threshold above the conventional threshold. Above the second threshold, the light-current characteristic is two-valued up to a maximum current at which the lasing is quenched. We show that the presence of internal loss narrows considerably the region of tolerable structure parameters in which the lasing is attainable; for example, the minimum cavity length is significantly increased. Our approach is quite general but the numerical examples presented are specific for quantum dot (QD) lasers. Our calculations suggest that the internal loss is likely to be a major limiting factor to lasing in short-cavity QD structures.
Date of Publication: July 2004