This paper describes technologies developed at Sandia National Laboratories to support a joint DoD/DoE initiative to create a compact, robust, and affordable photonic proximity sensor for munitions fuzing. The proximity fuze employs high-power vertical-cavity surface-emitting laser (VCSEL) arrays, resonant-cavity photodetectors (RCPDs), and refractive micro-optics that are integrated within a microsensor whose volume is approximately 0.01 cm3. Successful development and integration of these custom photonic components should enable a g-hard photonic proximity fuze that replaces costly assemblies of discrete lasers, photodetectors, and bulk optics. Additional applications of this technology include void sensing, ladar and short-range 3-D imaging.
This paper describes the photonic component development taking place at Sandia National Laboratories, ARDEC and the Army Research Laboratory in support of an effort to develop a robust, compact, and affordable photonic proximity sensor for munitions fuzing applications. Successful implementation of this sensor will provide a new capability for direct fire applications. The technologies under investigation for the optical fuze design covered in this paper are vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers (VCSELs), vertical-external-cavity surface-emitting lasers (VECSELs), integrated resonant-cavity photodetectors (RCPDs), and refractive micro-optics. The culmination of this work will be low cost, robust, fully integrated, g-hardened components suitable for proximity fuzing applications. The use of advanced photonic components will enable replacement of costly assemblies that employ discrete lasers, photodetectors, and bulk optics. The integrated devices will be mass produced and impart huge savings for a variety of Army applications. The specific application under investigation is for gun-fired munitions. Nevertheless, numerous civilian uses exist for this proximity sensor in automotive, robotics and aerospace applications. This technology is also applicable to robotic ladar and short-range 3-D imaging.
Firing systems typically incorporate isolation-based architectures that are established by the safety themes of particular weapon systems. Robust electrical diversion barriers are implemented to isolate energy from detonation-critical components until the event of intended use of the system. An optical trigger assembly is being developed to enhance the safety of new firing systems. It couples a fast trigger signal through an exclusion region barrier without compromising the integrity of the barrier in abnormal environment situations. A laser diode generates an optical pulse that is coupled through a sapphire stub to a photoconductive semiconductor switch (PCSS). The PCSS drives a vacuum switch tube to complete the triggering chain in the firing system. A general discussion and comparison of triggering technology options, and the design characteristics and performance parameters of the specific optical trigger point design are presented in this paper.
Vertical-external-cavity surface-emitting lasers (VECSELs) combine high optical power and good beam quality in a device with surface-normal output. In this paper, we describe the design and operating characteristics of an electrically-pumped VECSEL that employs a wafer-scale fabrication process and operates at 850 nm. A curved micromirror output coupler is heterogeneously integrated with AlGaAs-based semiconductor material to form a compact and robust device. The structure relies on flip-chip bonding the processed epitaxial material to an aluminum nitride mount; this heatsink both dissipates thermal energy and permits high frequency modulation using coplanar traces that lead to the VECSEL mesa. Backside emission is employed, and laser operation at 850 nm is made possible by removing the entire GaAs substrate through selective wet etching. While substrate removal eliminates absorptive losses, it simultaneously compromises laser performance by increasing series resistance and degrading the spatial uniformity of current injection. Several aspects of the VECSEL design help to mitigate these issues, including the use of a novel current-spreading n type distributed Bragg reflector (DBR). Additionally, VECSEL performance is improved through the use of a p-type DBR that is modified for low thermal resistance.
Gallium arsenide photoconductive semiconductor switches (PCSS) are being studied as enabling technologies for a variety of applications. High grain PCSS can be triggered with small laser diodes or laser diode arrays. Some of the applications require low temporal jitter of the switches relative to the trigger laser. The purpose of this study was to compare the temporal switch jitter times for different systems: we varied the type of trigger laser and its risetime, the type of pulse charger and transmission line that was discharged through the PCSS, and the geometry of PCSS used. One of the PCSS was an opposed contact PCSS geometry used by the Air Force Research Laboratory. The other was a coplanar geometry switch made by Sandia National Laboratories. It is found that the optical trigger laser characteristics are dominant in determining the PCSS jitter while the nature of the contact geometry (opposed or coplanar) is not as important.
Mode-locked semiconductor lasers have drawn considerable attention as compact, reliable, and relatively inexpensive sources of short optical pulses. Advances in the design of such lasers have resulted in vast improvements in pulsewidth and noise performance, at a very wide range of repetition rates. An attractive application for these lasers would be to serve as alternatives for large benchtop laser systems such as dye lasers and solid-state lasers. However, mode- locked semiconductor lasers have not yet approached the performance of such systems in terms of output power. Different techniques for overcoming the problem of low output power from mode-locked semiconductor lasers are discussed. Flared and arrayed lasers have been used successfully to increase the pulse saturation energy limit by increasing the gain cross section. Further improvements have been achieved by use of the MOPA configuration, which utilizes a flared semiconductor amplifier stage to amplify pulses to energies of 120 pJ and peak powers of nearly 30 W.
Feedback stabilization of the pulse repetition rate is demonstrated for an external cavity mode- locked semiconductor diode laser. The design procedure for repetition rate feedback stabilization is described. We propose feedback stabilization as a method of pulse stabilization for high repetition rate monolithic devices. These monolithic devices are expected to play an important role in applications such as optical clock generation and millimeter-wave clock distribution, but previously no timing stabilization technique had been developed which could be used up to the maximum repetition rates.
We investigate the characteristics of directly modulated semiconductor lasers with external cavity using 35 GHz sub carrier. We have achieved bit error rates 10-9 for data transmission over short optical fiber links with a binary phase shift keying modulation of 35 GHz sub carrier.
Modelocked semiconductor lasers are a source of subpicosecond pulses at high repetition rates with
very low phase noise. This makes them ideal sources for clock/strobe signals for OEIC's and optical
computing, for high data rate input devices and for use in optical digital-to-analog converters. These
applications will be described in this paper, together with an outline on the state of the art in
modelocked semiconductor lasers.