An apparatus and method for a passively Q-switched microlaser for producing high-peak-power pulses of light of extremely short duration are disclosed. The apparatus comprises a gain medium and saturable absorber disposed within a laser cavity. When the cavity is pumped, the saturable absorber prevents the onset of lasing until the inversion density within the cavity reaches a critical value. The length of the cavity, the material parameters, and the reflectivities of the mirrors are selected such that pulses of duration less than about 1 ns and of peak power in excess of about 10 kW are obtained. The invention has application in high-precision optical radar, nonlinear optics, micromachining, microsurgery, robotic vision, and other technologies requiring high-peak-power laser pulses of extremely short duration.
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