Crystalline whispering gallery mode resonators (CWGMRs) made of crystals with axial symmetry have ordinary and extraordinary families of optical modes. These modes have substantially different thermo-refractive constants. This results in a very sharp dependence of differential detuning of optical frequency on effective temperature. This frequency difference compared with clock gives an error signal for precise compensation of the random fluctuations of optical frequency. Certain crystals, like MgF2, have “turnover” points where the thermo-refractive effect is completely nullified.

A Nonlinear Thermal Compensator for an optical WGM resonator consists of (1) a rigid metal frame, (2) a glass or metal wedge-shaped spacer, and (3) a WGM resonator sandwiched between rigid spacers on the top and bottom. Temperature tuning is realized with a heater (5), and the nonlinearity is introduced by a nonlinear element (4).

An advantage for applications using WGMRs for frequency stabilization is in the possibility of manufacturing resonators out of practically any optically transparent crystal. It is known that there are crystals with negative and zero thermal expansion at some specific temperatures. Doping changes properties of the crystals and it is possible to create an optically transparent crystal with zero thermal expansion at room temperature. With this innovation’s stabilization technique, the resultant WGMR will have absolute frequency stability

The expansion of the resonator’s body can be completely compensated for by nonlinear elements. This results in compensation of linear thermal expansion (see figure). In three-mode, the MgF2 resonator, if tuned at the turnover thermal point, can compensate for all types of random thermal-related frequency drift. Simplified dual-mode method is also available. This creates miniature optical resonators with good short- and long-term stability for passive secondary frequency ethalon and an active resonator for active secondary frequency standard (a narrowband laser with long-term stability).

Optical losses due to media imperfection were addressed through a multi-step, asymptotic processing of the resonator. This technique has been initially developed to reduce microwave absorption in dielectric resonators. One part of this process consists of mechanical polishing performed after high-temperature annealing by placing the fluorite WGMR in a 3-foot-long (0.91-m-long), air-filled, transparent tube of annealed fused silica and then into a 20-cm-long horizontal tube furnace with a heated furnace core. The annealing process improves the transparency of the material because an increased temperature results in the enhancement of the mobility of defects induced by the fabrication process, and also reduces any residual stress birefringence. The increased mobility leads to the recombination of defects and their migration to the surface. The straightforward annealing of a WGMR leads to Q>1011 at 1.55 μm.

This work was done by Anatoliy Savchenkov, Andrey Matsko, Nan Yu, Lute Maleki, and Vladimir Iltchenko of Caltech for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

In accordance with Public Law 96-517, the contractor has elected to retain title to this invention. Inquiries concerning rights for its commercial use should be addressed to:

Innovative Technology Assets Management
Mail Stop 202-233
4800 Oak Grove Drive
Pasadena, CA 91109-8099
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Refer to NPO-45180, volume and number of this NASA Tech Briefs issue, and the page number.

Photonics Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the January, 2009 issue of Photonics Tech Briefs Magazine.

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