The invention comprises a RE-doped MA.sub.2 X.sub.4 crystalline gain medium, where M includes a divalent ion such as Mg, Ca, Sr, Ba, Pb, Eu, or Yb; A is selected from trivalent ions including Al, Ga, and In; X is one of the chalcogenide ions S, Se, and Te; and RE represents the trivalent rare earth ions. The MA.sub.2 X.sub.4 gain medium can be employed in a laser oscillator or a laser amplifier. Possible pump sources include diode lasers, as well as other laser pump sources. The laser wavelengths generated are greater than 3 microns, as becomes possible because of the low phonon frequency of this host medium. The invention may be used to seed optical devices such as optical parametric oscillators and other lasers.
The United States Government has rights in this invention pursuant to Contract No. W-7405-ENG-48 between the United States Department of Energy and the University of California for the operation of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.