We consider the application of mid-infrared (MIR) wavelength quantum cascade lasers (QCL) as sources for free-space optical communications. QCL"s possess high modulation bandwidth and excellent optical performance in the atmospherically transparent MIR spectral range. In order to investigate this potential application area, we have performed a series of comparative evaluations on analog and digital free-space optical links operating in the near-infrared (NIR) (830nm, 1300nm and 1550nm) and mid-infrared (8μm). The measurements were made using well controlled atmospheric conditions in the 65ft long Pacific Northwest National Laboratory"s Aerosol Wind Tunnel Research Facility using water vapor, oil vapor and dust as the scattering media. We measured the transmitted intensity as a function of the density of scatterers in the tunnel. We also performed bit error rate analysis of signals transmitted at the DS-3 data rate. The QCL link consistently showed a higher performance level when compared to the NIR links for water fog, oil fog and dust scattering.© (2004) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.