MEMS tunable lasers are not inherently phase stable because Brownian motion and drive electronics noise make the starting wavelength of the sweep unstable with respect to the electrical sweep trigger. A typical solution to the problem is to use a fiber Bragg reflector wavelength trigger. That is a sub-optimal solution since environmental changes can move both the Bragg peak and the k-clock phase. We have packaged temperature controlled trigger and clock etalons in a butterfly package to solve this environmental problem. By making the wide FSR trigger etalon from silicon and the narrow FSR clock etalon from fused silica, the relative spectral positions of the trigger and clock can be adjusted through temperature control. The system has applications in background subtraction, phase-sensitive and Doppler sensing, synthetic aperture imaging, and long-term averaging to increase SNR. It can be used for direct hardware clocking of a DAQ board, as well as in a software resampling context.
A 1060 nm optically pumped tunable VCSEL was formed from an InGaAs/AlGaAs/GaAs half-VCSEL bonded to a MEMS movable mirror on a silicon substrate. The VCSEL was co-packaged in a 14-pin butterfly module with an 825 nm pump laser and a 1060 nm semiconductor optical amplifier. The co-packaged device exhibited shot-noise-limited sensitivity with up to 50 mW output power and 75 nm tunability. Ophthalmic OCT, especially whole-eye imaging and ocular biometry, is considered the primary application of this device. However, we have also investigated LiDAR to greater than 10 meter ranges with non-mechanical beam steering through angular diffraction from a grating. A new generation of photonic integrated circuit LiDARs work this way and we have investigated the depth resolution limitations due to time dispersion from the grating. Distributed fiber temperature sensing was also demonstrated.
A back-to-back comparison of a tunable narrow-band SLED (TSLED) and a swept laser are made for OCT applications. Both are 1310 nm sources sweeping at 50 kHz over a 100 nm tuning range and have similar coherence lengths. The TSLED consists of a seed SOA and two amplification SOAs. The ASE is filtered twice by a tunable MEMS Fabry Perot in a polarization multiplexed double-pass arrangement on either side of the middle SOA. This allows very long coherence lengths to be achieved.
A fundamental issue with a SLED is that the RIN is proportional to 1/Linewidth, meaning that the longer the coherence length, the higher the RIN. High RIN also leads to increased clock jitter.
Most swept source SNR calculations assume that the noise is independent of the amplitude of the signal light: The higher the signal, the higher the SNR. We show that in the case of the TSLED, that the high signal RIN and clock jitter give rise to additional noises that scale with signal power. This leads to an SNR limit in the case of the TSLED: The higher the signal, the higher the noise, so the SNR reaches a limit. While the TSLED has respectable sensitivity, the SNR limit causes noise streaks in an image where the A-line has a high reflectivity point. The laser, which is shot noise limited, does not exhibit this effect. This is illustrated with SNR data and side-by-side images taken with the two sources.