This thesis presents the first successful realization of a compact, low-noise, and few-cycle light source in the mid-infrared wavelength region. By developing the technology of pumping femtosecond chromium-doped II-VI laser oscillators directly with the emission of broad-stripe single-emitter laser diodes, coherent light was generated with exceptionally low amplitude noise -- crucial for numerous applications including spectroscopy at high sensitivities. Other key parameters of the oscillator's output, such as pulse duration and output power, matched and even surpassed previous state-of-the-art systems. As a demonstration of its unique capabilities, the oscillator's powerful output was used to drive -- without further amplification -- the nonlinear generation of coherent mid-infrared light spanning multiple octaves. The resulting table-top system uniquely combines high brilliance and ultrabroad spectral bandwidth in the important mid-infrared spectral range.
The rapid development of this technology is comprehensively and lucidly documented in this PhD thesis. Together with a thorough review of literature and applications, and an extensive analysis of the theoretical foundations behind ultrafast laser oscillators, the thesis will serve as a valuable reference for the construction of a new generation of mid-infrared light sources.