This work puts forward new technologies for free-space optical communications, with emphasis on deployments between ground and aerial transceivers. The proposed system targets the challenges of these aerial-ground links by applying direct laser transmission for the ground-to-aerial active uplink and applying all-optical retro-modulation (AORM) for the aerial-to-ground passive downlink. It is shown that such a system can function with multiple ground transceivers, over wide service coverage, and one aerial transceiver, with low demands for its mass and power. The AORM architecture applied in the passive downlink implements glass S-LAH79 hemispheres for effective retroreflection and CuO nanocrystal semiconductor thin film layer for all-optical modulation on ultrafast timescale. The fabricated AORM architecture is demonstrated to have an system response time of 770 fs, which limits the aggregate data rate. Such a fast system response establishes the possibility of terabit-per-second data rates. Ultimately, these findings can lay the foundation for future laser-based terabit-per-second links between satellites, unmanned aerial vehicles, and high-altitude platforms.
The potential of terabit-per-second fibre optics can be unlocked with emerging all-optical networks and processors employing all-optical switching. To be effective, all-optical switching must support operations with femtojoule switching energies and femtosecond switching times. With this in mind, this work studies geometrical and material characteristics for all-optical switching and develops a new all-optical switching architecture. A nanojet focal geometry is applied, in the form of dielectric spheres, to direct high-intensity photonic nanojets into peripheral semiconductors. Theoretical and experimental analyses demonstrate photonic nanojets, enabling femtojoule switching energies through localized photoinjection, and semiconductor nanoparticles, enabling femtosecond switching times through localized recombination.
A practical all-optical switch is necessary to alleviate electronic bottlenecks in fibre optic networks. Thus, a new alloptical switch is introduced here—exhibiting femtojoule switching energies and femtosecond switching times. The alloptical switches use 40 μm dielectric spheres to direct high-intensity photonic nanojets into peripheral coatings of semiconductor nanoparticles. Semiconductor nanoparticle coatings of Si, CdTe, InP, and CuO are studied and found to yield switching energies of approximately 1 pJ, 500 fJ, 400 fJ, and 300 fJ with switching times of 2 ps, 2.3 ps, 900 fs, and 350 fs, respectively.
Optical wireless communications (OWC) offers the potential for high-speed and mobile operation in indoor networks. Such OWC systems often employ a fixed transmitter grid and mobile transceivers, with the mobile transceivers carrying out bi-directional communication via active downlinks (ideally with high-speed signal detection) and passive uplinks (ideally with broad angular retroreflection and high-speed modulation). It can be challenging to integrate all of these bidirectional communication capabilities within the mobile transceivers, however, as there is a simultaneous desire for compact packaging. With this in mind, the work presented here introduces a new form of transceiver for bi-directional OWC systems. The transceiver incorporates radial photoconductive switches (for high-speed signal detection) and a spherical retro-modulator (for broad angular retroreflection and high-speed all-optical modulation). All-optical retromodulation are investigated by way of theoretical models and experimental testing, for spherical retro-modulators comprised of three glasses, N-BK7, N-LASF9, and S-LAH79, having differing levels of refraction and nonlinearity. It is found that the spherical retro-modulator comprised of S-LAH79, with a refractive index of n ≈ 2 and a Kerr nonlinear index of n2 ≈ (1.8 ± 0.1) × 10-15 cm2/W, yields both broad angular retroreflection (over a solid angle of 2π steradians) and ultrafast modulation (over a duration of 120 fs). Such transceivers can become important elements for all-optical implementations in future bi-directional OWC systems.