We report on an experimental demonstration of mid-infrared cascaded supercontinuum generation in commercial silica, fluoride, and chalcogenide fibers as a potentially cheap and practical alternative to direct pumping schemes. A pump continuum up to 4.4 μm was generated in cascaded silica and fluoride fibers by an amplified 1.55 μm nanosecond diode laser. By pumping a commercial Ge<sub>10</sub>As<sub>22</sub>Se<sub>68</sub> single-material photonic crystal fiber with 135.7 mW of the pump continuum from 3.5- 4.4 μm, we obtained a continuum up to 7.2 μm with a total output power after the collimating lens of 54.5 mW, and 3.7 mW above 4.5 μm.
We are establishing a new paradigm in mid-infrared molecular sensing, mapping and imaging to open up the midinfrared spectral region for in vivo (i.e. in person) medical diagnostics and surgery. Thus, we are working towards the mid-infrared optical biopsy (‘opsy’ look at, bio the biology) in situ in the body for real-time diagnosis. This new paradigm will be enabled through focused development of devices and systems which are robust, functionally designed, safe, compact and cost effective and are based on active and passive mid-infrared optical fibers. In particular, this will enable early diagnosis of external cancers, mid-infrared detection of cancer-margins during external surgery for precise removal of diseased tissue, in one go during the surgery, and mid-infrared endoscopy for early diagnosis of internal cancers and their precision removal. The mid-infrared spectral region has previously lacked portable, bright sources. We set a record in demonstrating extreme broad-band supercontinuum generated light 1.4 to 13.3 microns in a specially engineered, high numerical aperture mid-infrared optical fiber. The active mid-infrared fiber broadband supercontinuum for the first time offers the possibility of a bright mid-infrared wideband source in a portable package as a first step for medical fiber-based systems operating in the mid-infrared. Moreover, mid-infrared molecular mapping and imaging is potentially a disruptive technology to give improved monitoring of the environment, energy efficiency, security, agriculture and in manufacturing and chemical processing. This work is in part supported by the European Commission: Framework Seven (FP7) Large-Scale Integrated Project MINERVA: MId-to-NEaR- infrared spectroscopy for improVed medical diAgnostics (317803; www.minerva-project.eu).
The extension of supercontinuum (SC) sources into the mid-infrared, via the use of uoride and chalcogenide optical fibers, potentially offers the high radiance of a laser combined with spectral coverage far exceeding that of typical tunable lasers and comparable to traditional black-body emitters. Together with advances in mid-IR imaging detectors and novel tunable filter designs, such supercontinua hold considerable potential as sources of illumination for spectrally-resolved microscopy targeting applications such as rapid histological screening. The ability to rapidly and arbitrarily select particular wavelengths of interest from a broad emission spectrum, covering a wide range of biologically relevant targets, lends itself to image acquisition only at key relevant wavelengths leading to more manageable datasets. However, in addition to offering new imaging modalities, SC sources also present a range of challenges to successful integration with typical spectral microscopy instrumentation, including appropriate utilisation of their high spatial coherence. In this paper the application of SC sources to spectrally-resolved microscopy in the mid-IR is discussed and systems-integration considerations specific to these sources highlighted. Preliminary results in the 3-5μm region, obtained within the European FP7 project MINERVA, are also presented here.
Commercially available supercontinuum sources continue to experience a strong growth in a wide range of industrial and scientific applications. In addition, there is a significant research effort focused on extending the wavelength coverage both towards UV and Mid-IR. Broadband sources covering these wavelength regions have received significant attention from potential users, as there is a wide array of applications for which there are few suitable alternative light sources – if any. Our developments in the field of Mid-IR supercontinuum sources have been based on radical approaches; such as soft glasses and novel pumping schemes, whereas shifting the spectrum further towards the UV has been based on sophisticated microstructure fiber designs. Here we present our latest developments in tailoring the power and spectral coverage of spatially coherent broadband supercontinuum sources.