Intersubband carrier lifetimes and population ratios are calculated for three- and four-level optically pumped terahertz laser structures. Laser operation is based on intersubband transitions between the conduction band states of asymmetric GaAs-Ga(1 – x)Al(x)As quantum wells. It is shown that the carrier lifetimes in three-level systems fulfill the necessary conditions for stimulated emission only at temperatures below 200 K. The addition of a fourth level, however, enables fast depopulation of the lower laser level by resonant longitudinal optical phonon emission and thus offers potential for room temperature laser operation. © 1997 American Institute of Physics
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