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The mid-infrared (MIR) represents a large portion of the electromagnetic spectrum that is progressively being exploited for an enormous number of applications. Thermal imaging cameras, dental and skin resurfacing lasers, and narcotics detectors at airports are all mainstream examples involving the MIR, but potential applications of MIR technologies are much larger. Accessing the unique opportunities afforded by the MIR is critically dependent on the specific characteristics of MIR emitting sources that become available. In this review, we survey an important enabling technology to the opening up of MIR science and applications, namely that driven by fiber-based sources of coherent MIR radiation. In this review paper, we describe many of the key advances in the innovation and development of such sources over the past few decades and discuss many of the underlying science and technology issues that have resulted in specific recent source achievements, especially in light of new applications enabled by these new source capabilities. We also discuss a few specific anticipated future needs and some potentially disruptive approaches to future MIR fiber source development.
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