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Packaging-induced strain is studied in high-power semiconductor lasers by a noninvasive optical technique. Fourier-transform photocurrent measurements with intentionally strained laser array devices for 808 nm emission reveal spectral shifts of optical transitions within the active region. These shifts by up to 10 meV serve as a measure for the strain status within the active layer of the devices and are compared with model calculations. For different packaging architectures we quantify the strain portion which is transmitted to the optically active region of the semiconductor device. © 1999 American Institute of Physics.