Optical injection locking has been demonstrated to be effective as a means of stabilizing the wavelength of light emitted by a vertical-cavity surface-emitting laser (VCSEL) that is an active element in the frequency-control loop of an opto-electronic oscillator (OEO) designed to implement an atomic clock based on an electromagnetically-induced-transparency resonance. This particular optical-injection-locking scheme is expected to enable the development of small, lowpower, high-stability atomic clocks that would be suitable for use in applications involving precise navigation and/or communication.

In one essential aspect of operation of an OEO of the type described above, a microwave modulation signal is coupled into the VCSEL. Heretofore, it has been well known that the wavelength of light emitted by a VCSEL depends on its temperature and drive current, necessitating thorough stabilization of these operational parameters. Recently, it was discovered that the wavelength also depends on the microwave power coupled into the VCSEL. Inasmuch as the microwave power circulating in the frequency-control loop is a dynamic frequency-control variable (and, hence, cannot be stabilized), there arises a need for another means of stabilizing the wavelength.

The present optical-injection-locking scheme satisfies the need for a means to stabilize the wavelength against microwave-power fluctuations. It is also expected to afford stabilization against temperature and current fluctuations. In an experiment performed to demonstrate this scheme, wavelength locking was observed when about 200 μW of the output power of a commercial tunable diode laser was injected into a commercial VCSEL, designed to operate in the wavelength range of 795±3 nm, that was generating about 200 μW of optical power. (The use of relatively high injection power levels is a usual practice in injection locking of VCSELs.)

This work was done by Dmitry Strekalov, Andrey Matsko, Anatoliy Savchenkov, Nan Yu, and Lute Maleki of Caltech for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. NPO-43454


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Optical Injection Locking of a VCSEL in an OEO

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This article first appeared in the July, 2009 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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