We report the first fabrication and laser operation of channel waveguides based on LaF3 planar thin films grown by molecular beam epitaxy. To our knowledge, this is the lowest phonon energy dielectric material to have shown guided-wave laser operation to date. A full characterization, in terms of spectroscopy, laser results, and propagation losses, is given for the planar thin films upon which the channel waveguides are based. Two channel-fabrication methods are then described, the first involves ion milling and the second takes the novel approach of using a photo-definable polymer overlay. Laser operation in Nd-doped samples is demonstrated at 1.06, 1.05, and 1.3 µm, and the potential for mid-infrared laser sources based on such guides is discussed
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