Photonic integrated circuits for the generation of coherent optical signals

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Morrissey, Padraic E.
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University College Cork
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The demand for optical bandwidth continues to increase year on year and is being driven primarily by entertainment services and video streaming to the home. Current photonic systems are coping with this demand by increasing data rates through faster modulation techniques, spectrally efficient transmission systems and by increasing the number of modulated optical channels per fibre strand. Such photonic systems are large and power hungry due to the high number of discrete components required in their operation. Photonic integration offers excellent potential for combining otherwise discrete system components together on a single device to provide robust, power efficient and cost effective solutions. In particular, the design of optical modulators has been an area of immense interest in recent times. Not only has research been aimed at developing modulators with faster data rates, but there has also a push towards making modulators as compact as possible. Mach-Zehnder modulators (MZM) have proven to be highly successful in many optical communication applications. However, due to the relatively weak electro-optic effect on which they are based, they remain large with typical device lengths of 4 to 7 mm while requiring a travelling wave structure for high-speed operation. Nested MZMs have been extensively used in the generation of advanced modulation formats, where multi-symbol transmission can be used to increase data rates at a given modulation frequency. Such nested structures have high losses and require both complex fabrication and packaging. In recent times, it has been shown that Electro-absorption modulators (EAMs) can be used in a specific arrangement to generate Quadrature Phase Shift Keying (QPSK) modulation. EAM based QPSK modulators have increased potential for integration and can be made significantly more compact than MZM based modulators. Such modulator designs suffer from losses in excess of 40 dB, which limits their use in practical applications. The work in this thesis has focused on how these losses can be reduced by using photonic integration. In particular, the integration of multiple lasers with the modulator structure was considered as an excellent means of reducing fibre coupling losses while maximising the optical power on chip. A significant difficultly when using multiple integrated lasers in such an arrangement was to ensure coherence between the integrated lasers. The work investigated in this thesis demonstrates for the first time how optical injection locking between discrete lasers on a single photonic integrated circuit (PIC) can be used in the generation of coherent optical signals. This was done by first considering the monolithic integration of lasers and optical couplers to form an on chip optical power splitter, before then examining the behaviour of a mutually coupled system of integrated lasers. By operating the system in a highly asymmetric coupling regime, a stable phase locking region was found between the integrated lasers. It was then shown that in this stable phase locked region the optical outputs of each laser were coherent with each other and phase locked to a common master laser.
Photonics , Physics , Integration , Lasers
Morrissey, P. E. 2014. Photonic integrated circuits for the generation of coherent optical signals. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.
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