Narrow-linewidth semiconductor lasers, micro-optics, silicon photonics (SiP), low noise electronics and high-density packaging are key elements for the development of compact high-end light sources for sensing.
A laser module for the interrogation of an RFOG (Resonant Fiber-Optic Gyroscope) includes three distributed feedback lasers coupled with micro-lenses to a multi-component SiP chip that performs beat note detection and several other functions. The lasers and SiP chip are packaged in a 2.6 cm3 multi-layer ceramic package, a 4x volume reduction over a first generation module. The package interfaces with 92 electrical pins and two fiber pigtails, one carrying the signals from a master and slave lasers, another carrying that from a second slave laser. The complete laser source including electronics is 60 mm in diameter and 23 mm in height, a 10x volume improvement over a previous version. The master laser can be locked to the RFOG resonator with a loop bandwidth greater than 1 MHz. The slave lasers are offset frequency locked to the master laser with loop bandwidths greater than 100 MHz. This high performance source is compact, automated, robust, and remains locked for days.
A lighter version of this laser module for FM-CW LIDAR applications produces an output optical frequency that varies linearly as a function of the electrical drive. A triangular modulation at 100 kHz with a greater than 1 GHz amplitude has been demonstrated with a linearity noise near 1 MHz as measured through a 150 m unbalanced interferometer.
An optical coherent receiver for the down conversion of radio frequency (RF) signals from 10-18 GHz to 2 GHz is presented. Light from a distributed feedback semiconductor laser is split between two lithium niobate Mach-Zehnder modulators driven either by a tunable local oscillator (LO) tone or a RF signal coming, for example, from a receiving antenna. The modulated light signals are combined with an optical coupler and filtered by two fiber Bragg gratings (FBG) that select one optical sideband from each signal. Detection of the filtered light by a balanced photo-detector produces an electrical signal at an intermediate frequency equal to the beat difference between the RF and LO frequencies.
Most current RF photonic systems are made from individually packaged devices that are interconnected with fiber-optic cables. In order to reduce size and weight and make the coherent receiver suitable for use in smaller airborne and mobile platforms, optical and opto-electronic components are packaged within a common enclosure where light routing is performed by micro-optics. A printed circuit board (PCB) is included within the module. It comprises a micro-processor to control and monitor the laser, the FBGs and thermo-electric coolers to ensure a robust operation over time and fluctuating environmental conditions. The module including the PCB, laser, modulators, optics, optical filters and balanced detector has a size of 89 x 64 x 32 mm3.
A compact three-laser source for optical sensing is presented. It is based on a low-noise implementation of the Pound Drever-Hall method and comprises high-bandwidth optical phase-locked loops. The outputs from three semiconductor distributed feedback lasers, mounted on thermo-electric coolers (TEC), are coupled with micro-lenses into a silicon photonics (SiP) chip that performs beat note detection and several other functions. The chip comprises phase modulators, variable optical attenuators, multi-mode-interference couplers, variable ratio tap couplers, integrated photodiodes and optical fiber butt-couplers. Electrical connections between a metallized ceramic and the TECs, lasers and SiP chip are achieved by wirebonds. All these components stand within a 35 mm by 35 mm package which is interfaced with 90 electrical pins and two fiber pigtails. One pigtail carries the signals from a master and slave lasers, while another carries that from a second slave laser. The pins are soldered to a printed circuit board featuring a micro-processor that controls and monitors the system to ensure stable operation over fluctuating environmental conditions.
This highly adaptable multi-laser source can address various sensing applications requiring the tracking of up to three narrow spectral features with a high bandwidth. It is used to sense a fiber-based ring resonator emulating a resonant fiber optics gyroscope. The master laser is locked to the resonator with a loop bandwidth greater than 1 MHz. The slave lasers are offset frequency locked to the master laser with loop bandwidths greater than 100 MHz. This high performance source is compact, automated, robust, and remains locked for days.