High-power diode lasers such as `cm-bar arrays' are important for many applications. The `p-side down packaging', i.e. the direct mounting of the epitaxial layer sequence on a heat spreader ensures sufficient thermal properties, however, in such a geometry, additional mechanical strain of the active region represents a central issue, affecting both the laser parameter as well as lifetime and reliability of the device. Thermally induced strain caused by device packaging is studied in high-power semiconductor laser arrays by a novel non-invasive technique. Photocurrent measurements with intentionally strained laser array devices for 808 nm emission reveal spectral shifts of all allowed optical transitions in the active region. These shifts serve as a measure for strain and are compared with model calculations. Depending on the specific heat spreader materials we find compressive or tensile mounting induced strain contributions. For a given packaging architecture, about one quarter of the mounting induced strain is transferred to the quantum well region of the device. Spatially resolved measurements allow to measure lateral strain gradients in the devices. Using this data for calibration we show that polarization resolved electroluminescence scans can be used as convenient measure for strain homogeneity test also in quantum-well devices.© (1999) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.