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Near-field properties of the emission of broad area semiconductor diode lasers under extremely high pumping of up to ∼50 times the threshold are investigated. A transition from a gain to thermally-induced index guiding is shown under operation with single pulses of 300 ns duration. At highest output powers, catastrophic optical damage is observed which is studied in conjunction with the evolution of time-averaged filamentary near-field properties. Dynamics of the process is resolved on a picosecond time scale.


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