Using a tunable semiconductor laser diode and an array of diffractive optical elements (DOEs), a time-continuous, free-space optical analog to digital converter (ADC) with five bits of resolution was experimentally evaluated. The signal to be A/D-converted was fed to the tuning sections of a grating coupled twin-guide sampled reflector (GCSR) laser diode, giving a quasi-continuous tuning range of 10 nm that spanned 40 longitudinal modes. The 32 central modes were mapped to specific digital output values by first converting wavelength to deflection angle using a diffraction grating and then focusing on an array of beam splitting DOEs. Each DOE element generated a five-spot digital code word in the detector plane. Using Gray code, only one code bit changed value at a time. Thus, the beam could straddle two adjacent DOE elements without large read out errors. Furthermore, the grating components of the elements in the DOE array were all in-phase to keep the spot focused when such straddling occurs. The SNR of a converted 10 MHz sine signal covering 23 modes was 21 dB, mainly limited by tuning hysteresis. This SNR corresponds to 3.2 effective bits. The laser's analog tuning bandwidth was found to be 45 MHz, probably limited by the carrier lifetime in the passive tuning sections, but we also measured the ADC performance at 100 MHz. As the studied ADC system is time-continuous, the sampling was done in the digital domain.
A commercial linear one-dimensional, 1x4096 pixels, zero-twist nematic liquid crystal spatial light modulator (SLM), giving more than 2π phase modulation at λ = 850 nm, was evaluated for beam steering applications. The large ratio (7:1) between the liquid crystal layer thickness and pixel width gives rise to voltage leakage and fringing fields between pixels. Due to the fringing fields the ideal calculated phase patterns cannot be perfectly realized by the device. Losses in high frequency components in the phase patterns were found to limit the maximum deflection angle. The inhomogeneous optical anisotropy of the SLM was determined by modelling of the liquid crystal director distribution within the electrode-pixel structure. The effects of the fringing fields on the amplitude and phase modulation were studied by full vector finite-difference time-domain simulations. It was found that the fringing fields also resulted in coupling into an unwanted polarization mode. Measurements of how this mode coupling affects the beam steering quality were carried out and the results compared with calculated results. A method to compensate for the fringing field effects is discussed and it is shown how the usable steering range of the SLM can be extended to ± 2 degrees.
A linear one-dimensional, 1x4096 pixel, zero-twist nematic liquid crystal spatial light modulator (SLM) was evaluated for laser beam steering and tracking applications. The commercially obtained SLM is designed to operate at, λ = 850 nm, allowing more than 2 π phase modulation. Due to voltage leakage the phase modulation experienced by the wave front differed from the ideal calculated phase patterns. This cross talk between pixels reduces the diffraction efficiency. Different methods developed to compensate for this effect are presented. The usable steering range of the SLM was extended to ± 2 degrees using improved phase patterns. A simple model was developed to simulate the optical effects of the voltage leakage. Preliminary tracking experiments were carried out in a laboratory set-up using a moving corner cube retro reflector. The beam steering SLM was implemented in a transceiver for free-space optical communication. Initial results using the transceiver up to 180 m range are presented.