Three-wave mixing, resonance, and low loss would result in high efficiency.
Microwave-to-optical frequency converters based on whispering-gallery-mode (WGM) resonators have been proposed as mixers for the input ends of microwave receivers in which, downstream of the input ends, signals would be processed photonically. A frequency converter as proposed (see figure) would exploit the nonlinearity of the electromagnetic response of a WGM resonator made of LiNbO3 or another suitable ferroelectric material. Up-conversion would take place by three-wave mixing in the resonator.
The WGM resonator would be designed and fabricated to obtain (1) resonance at both the microwave and the optical operating frequencies and (2) phase matching among the input and output microwave and optical signals as described in the immediately preceding article. Because the resonator would be all dielectric — there would be no metal electrodes — signal losses would be very low and, consequently, the resonance quality factors (Q values) of the microwave and optical fields would be very large. The long lifetimes associated with the large Q values would enable attainment of high efficiency of nonlinear interaction with low saturation power. It is anticipated that efficiency would be especially well enhanced by the combination of optical and microwave resonances in operation at input signal frequencies between 90 and 300 GHz.
This work was done by Anatoliy Savchenkov, Dmitry Strekalov, Nan Yu, Andrey Matsko, and Lute Maleki of Caltech for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
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