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Brighter comb lasers on a chip mean new applications


29 August 2023


Brighter comb lasers on a chip mean new applications

Advance paves the way to highly portable precision metrology devices

Researchers have shown that dissipative Kerr solitons (DKSs) can be used to create chip-based optical frequency combs with enough output power for use in optical atomic clocks and other practical applications. The advance could lead to chip-based instruments that can make precision measurements that were previously possible only in a few specialized laboratories.

Grégory Moille from the Joint Quantum Institute, NIST/University of Maryland, will present this research at Frontiers in Optics + Laser Science (FiO LS), which will be held 9 – 12 October 2023 at the Greater Tacoma Convention Center in Tacoma (Greater Seattle Area), Washington.

“Frequency combs are ubiquitous in metrology - just like a ruler measures length, they let us measure optical frequency with great precision,” said Moille. “Making them on chip helps us reduce greatly their power consumption, but also reduces the power in each comb tooth. This makes it hard to interface on-chip combs with other system like atomic frequency standards. We show that by simply carefully injecting another weak laser in the comb device, it lets us tune the system and therefore optimize the power in several comb teeth power by more than an order of magnitude.”

Optical frequency combs emit a continuous train of short, closely spaced pulses of light containing millions of colors, which can be used to measure light waves as if they were radio waves. This allows technologies such as atomic clocks, computers and communications to be connected with optical waves that oscillate at 10,000 times higher frequencies than those found in electronics.

While conventional optical frequency combs are generated using mode-locked lasers that tend to be constrained to high-end scientific laboratories, there has been recent work to develop optical frequency combs using compact, chip-scale microresonators based on DKSs. DKSs are packets of light that rely on a double balance of nonlinearity and dispersion as well as dissipation and gain. Although DKS-based combs consume very little energy, they also do not produce enough output power to be useful.

In the new work, researchers harness the newly proposed Kerr-induced synchronization of Kerr solitons to an external stable laser reference to produce optical frequency combs with higher levels of power. This creates a substantial increase of power on the other side of the comb spectrum from the reference laser.

The researchers demonstrate, both theoretically and experimentally, that an external reference pump at 193 THz allows for the repetition rate tuning of an octave-spanning comb. This enables tuning of the phase-matching condition of the comb tooth at the dispersive wave in a way that optimizes its power. Alongside a self-balancing effect, directly related to the core robustness property of the DKS, they demonstrate a more than 15-fold power increase at the 388 THz comb tooth.

“We are just scratching the surface of what optimization can be performed,” explains Moille. “We have not reached the power limit of this optimization and hope to reach power level compatible with interfacing our comb directly with other systems”

About Frontiers in Optics + Laser Science

Frontiers in Optics, the annual meeting for Optica (formerly OSA) is presented with Laser Science, the annual meeting of the American Physical Society, Division of Laser Science. The two meetings unite communities from both societies for comprehensive and current research in a diverse collection of optics and photonics topics and across the disciplines of physics, biology and chemistry. The 2023 FiO LS Conference will be held as an in-person event featuring hundreds of live contributed and invited talks with additional on-demand content available for online viewing. Media registration is free with credential. Digital assets are available as requested.

About Optica

Optica (formerly OSA), Advancing Optics and Photonics Worldwide, is the society dedicated to promoting the generation, application, archiving and dissemination of knowledge in the field. Founded in 1916, it is the leading organization for scientists, engineers, business professionals, students and others interested in the science of light. Optica’s renowned publications, meetings, online resources and in-person activities fuel discoveries, shape real-life applications and accelerate scientific, technical and educational achievement. Discover more at: Optica.org