An optical amplifier is a device that amplifies an optical signal (information theory)|signal directly, without the need to first convert it to an electrical signal. An optical amplifier may be thought of as a laser without an optical cavity, or one in which feedback from the cavity is suppressed. Optical amplifiers are important in optical communication and laser physics.
There are several different physical mechanisms that can be used to amplify a light signal, which correspond to the major types of optical amplifiers. In doped fiber amplifiers and bulk lasers, stimulated emission in the amplifier's gain medium causes amplification of incoming light. In semiconductor optical amplifiers (SOAs), electron-electron hole|hole Carrier generation and recombination|recombination occurs. In Raman amplifiers, Raman scattering of incoming light with phonons in the lattice of the gain medium produces photons coherent with the incoming photons. Parametric amplifiers use parametric amplification.