Vertical-external-cavity surface-emitting lasers (VECSELs) are the most versatile laser sources, combining unique features such as wide spectral coverage, ultrashort pulse operation, low noise properties, high output power, high brightness and compact form-factor. This paper reviews the recent technological developments of VECSELs in connection with the new milestones that continue to pave the way towards their use in numerous applications. Significant attention is devoted to the fabrication of VECSEL gain mirrors in challenging wavelength regions, especially at the yellow and red wavelengths. The reviewed fabrication approaches address wafer-bonded VECSEL structures as well as the use of hybrid mirror structures. Moreover, a comprehensive summary of VECSEL characterization methods is presented; the discussion covers different stages of VECSEL development and different operation regimes, pointing out specific characterization techniques for each of them. Finally, several emerging applications are discussed, with emphasis on the unique application objectives that VECSELs render possible, for example in atom and molecular physics, dermatology and spectroscopy.
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