Bidirectional, high data rate, low size, weight, and power (SWaP), and low cost free space optical links are needed for space and aeronautic communication applications to send and receive large volumes of data. We are exploring design strategies for optical transceivers to reduce SWaP and cost through increased misalignment tolerance (pointing requirement reduction) and sharing the optical transmit and receive paths (imposing optical symmetry). In applications where the detector is fiber coupled, the receive fiber numerical aperture is the main driver of the pointing accuracy requirement. Increasing the numerical aperture of the receive fiber reduces the pointing requirement. In an optically symmetric design, the fibers both transmit and receive the light. Hence, increasing the receive fiber numerical aperture requires a similar increase of the transmit fiber. Unfortunately, increasing the transmit fiber numerical aperture causes instability in received power over small misalignments. Double clad fibers offer a solution. These fibers transmit from a single mode core and receive light in a larger numerical aperture. Results show that as transceiver fibers, double clad fibers have an improved misalignment tolerance and a higher stability for small changes in misalignment when compared to single mode fibers and multimode fibers. Also, double clad fibers are shown to match the performance of an asymmetrical link design with a single mode transmit fiber and a multimode receive fiber.
Sarah A. Tedder, Bryan L. Schoenholz, Joel Berkson, and Bertram Floyd, "Exploration of double clad fibers for increased stability of bidirectional free space optical links," Proc. SPIE 10524, Free-Space Laser Communication and Atmospheric Propagation XXX, 105240X (Presented at SPIE LASE: January 30, 2018; Published: 15 February 2018); https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2287428.
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