Photonics/Optics

Active Correction of Aberrations of Low-Quality Telescope Optics

Relatively inexpensive optical components could be used in free-space optical communications. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California A system of active optics that includes a wavefront sensor and a deformable mirror has been demonstrated to be an effective means of partly correcting wavefront aberrations introduced by fixed optics (lenses and mirrors) in telescopes. It is envisioned that after further development, active optics would be used to reduce wavefront aberrations of about one wave or less in telescopes having aperture diameters of the order of meters or tens of meters. Although this remaining amount of aberration would be considered excessive in scientific applications in which diffraction-limited performance is required, it would be acceptable for free-space optical-communication applications at wavelengths of the order of 1 μm.

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Rugged, Tunable Extended-Cavity Diode Laser

This laser is relatively insensitive to vibration. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California A rugged, tunable extended-cavity diode laser (ECDL) has been developed to satisfy stringent requirements for frequency stability, notably including low sensitivity to vibration. This laser is designed specifically for use in an atomic-clock experiment to be performed aboard the International Space Station (ISS). Lasers of similar design would be suitable for use in terrestrial laboratories engaged in atomic-clock and atomic-physics research.

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Thulium Puts Power Behind Eyesafe Fiber Lasers

One of the key advantages of fiber laser technology stems from the high conversion efficiency of the multimode pump radiation into high-brightness, single-mode laser light within the doped fiber lasing medium. Ytterbium-doped fiber lasers operating around 1μm often achieve around 80% pump- to-laser conversion efficiency and corresponding wall plug efficiencies over 25%, depending on the pump diodes used in the laser. As a result, high-power CW fiber lasers are more compact and require less cooling than a traditional solid-state laser of similar power.

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Reactive Solders Improve Fiber Couplers and OE Bonding

Optical and optoelectronic (OE) devices are being rapidly integrated into many facets of everyday life. From telecommunications to sensor applications, these devices are expected to perform accurately and reliably for long periods of time.

Posted in: Application Briefs, Applications, ptb catchall, Photonics

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Recirculation of Laser Power in an Atomic Fountain

Optical and electronic subsystems of a frequency standard can be simplified. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California A new technique for laser-cooling atoms in a cesium atomic fountain frequency standard relies on recirculation of laser light through the atom-collection region of the fountain. The recirculation, accomplished by means of reflections from multiple fixed beam-splitter cubes, is such that each of two laser beams makes three passes. As described below, this recirculation scheme offers several advantages over prior designs, including simplification of the laser system, greater optical power throughput, fewer optical and electrical connections, and simplification of beam power balancing.

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Simplified Generation of High-Angular-Momentum Light Beams

Inherent properties of a WGM resonator and optical fiber are exploited. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California A simplified method of generating a beam of light having a relatively high value of angular momentum (see figure) involves the use of a compact apparatus consisting mainly of a laser, a whispering-gallery-mode (WGM) resonator, and optical fibers. The method also can be used to generate a Bessel beam. (“Bessel beam” denotes a member of a class of non-diffracting beams, so named because their amplitudes are proportional to Bessel functions of the radii from their central axes. High-order Bessel beams can have high values of angular momentum.)

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Complex Type-II Interband Cascade MQW Photodetectors

Multiple active subregions, each optimized for a different color, would enable multicolor operation. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California Multiple-quantum-well (MQW) photodetectors of a proposed type would contain active regions comprising multiple superlattice subregions. These devices would have complex structures: The superlattice of each subregion would be designed for enhanced absorption of photons in a desired wavelength band (typically in the infrared) and multiple subregions of different design would be cascaded for multicolor operation.

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