Multi-wavelength source using low drive-voltage amplitude

Multi-wavelength source using low drive-voltage
amplitude modulators for optical
Tadhg Healy, Fatima C. Garcia Gunning, Andrew D. Ellis
Photonic Systems Group, Tyndall National Institute and Department of Physics, University College Cork, Cork,
[email protected] [email protected] [email protected]
Jeff D. Bull
Versawave Technologies Inc. Suite 182 – 4664 Lougheed Highway, Burnaby, BC, V5C5T5, Canada.
[email protected]
Abstract: A simple and cost-effective technique for generating a flat,
square-shaped multi-wavelength optical comb with 42.6 GHz line spacing
and over 0.5 THz of total bandwidth is presented. A detailed theoretical
analysis is presented, showing that using two concatenated modulators
driven with voltages of 3.5 Vπ are necessary to generate 11 comb lines with
a flatness below 2dB. This performance is experimentally demonstrated
using two cascaded Versawave 40 Gbit/s low drive voltage electro-optic
polarisation modulators, where an 11 channel optical comb with a flatness
of 1.9 dB and a side-mode-suppression ratio (SMSR) of 12.6 dB was
©2007 Optical Society of America
OCIS codes: (060.2330) Fiber optics communications, (060.4230) Multiplexing.
References and links
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amplitude modulator pair,” in Proc. SPIE - Opto-Ireland Symposium 5825B-74, pp. 469-474, (2005).
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Received 14 December 2006; accepted 13 February 2007
19 March 2007 / Vol. 15, No. 6 / OPTICS EXPRESS 2981
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1. Introduction
In recent years multi-wavelength generation (also called multi-frequency or comb generation)
has attracted interest for use in a number of areas in photonics technology. For example, in
optical communications ultra-dense wavelength division multiplexing (UD-WDM) uses
tightly spaced optical channels (<50 GHz spacing) generated from spectrally sliced optical
combs to transmit data in both access and long-haul networks requiring large channel counts,
and Zeller et al suggested that optical combs generated from mode-locked lasers are suitable
sources for test and measurement of DWDM systems [1]. Optical combs are also finding
application in the microwave regime where they have been used to implement photonic
microwave filters [2], and the frequency up-shifting of arbitrary microwave waveforms [3],
where tunability is a key parameter. More recently a novel optical transmission format, known
as Coherent Wavelength Division Multiplexing (CoWDM) [4], has been proposed, which
relies on a stable phase relationship between adjacent channels [5]. Choosing an optimum
comb generation technique clearly involves application dependent performance trade-offs.
In this paper we consider the application of optical combs to CoWDM. There are
numerous benefits of using a comb generator in such optical transmitters including a reduction
in the number of laser sources and wavelength lockers required, and an increase in the
attainable spectral density. When evaluating the merits of various comb generation
techniques for this application it is important to consider the following key parameters which
define overall performance. Firstly, high power conversion efficiency including component
insertion losses, power lost to unwanted sidebands and in attenuation of high power channels
to produce a uniform power distribution which is not degraded by subsequent optical filtering.
Meeting this requirement necessarily requires a square shaped comb, with uniform amplitudes
for the wanted comb lines, and excellent intrinsic suppression of unwanted comb lines.
Secondly, it is important for some applications (e.g. CoWDM) to have well defined line
spacing and a stable phase relationship between comb lines. Finally, a simple and cost
effective configuration is desired.
Previously reported comb generation techniques include (1) the use of amplitude or
frequency modulated (FM) mode-locked lasers (such as ERGO (Er:Yb:glass laser oscillator)
lasers [1], fibre ring lasers [6], or mode-locked semiconductor lasers [7]), which give good
optical signal-to-noise ratio (OSNR) values, but require precise control of the laser cavity
length; (2) a wideband LiNbO3 phase modulator in self-oscillating mode [8] when driven with
a feedback signal from its output, which makes oscillation easier to start and maintain than
mode-locked lasers, but requires large RF power amplifiers with precise control of the output
voltage, in addition to extra filters and photodiodes; (3) an amplitude modulator with a section
of highly non-linear fibre [9], which also results in a good OSNR, but needs high optical
launch powers, long fibre lengths and stimulated Brillouin scattering (SBS) suppression; and
(4) concatenated Mach-Zehnder (MZ) and phase modulators [10], a method which gives good
uniformity across the channels, but requires the use of large drive voltage amplifiers and
precise control of the applied voltage. Techniques (1) and (2) generally require an
appropriately shaped optical filter to produce reasonable flatness, whilst (3) produces a large
number of unwanted comb lines; in each of these cases the power efficiency of the comb is
In this paper we present an analysis of the production a phase locked optical comb using
two cascaded amplitude modulators. We also demonstrate a practical implementation of the
scheme, where an 11 channel, 468 GHz bandwidth comb is generated using two 40 GHz
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electro-optic polarisation modulators with low drive voltages. It is shown that the additional
tuning freedom offered by replacing the phase modulator of (4) by a second amplitude
modulator allows excellent flatness (<2 dB) and high SMSR values (>12 dB) without the need
to precisely tune RF amplitudes, whilst the low drive voltage electro-optic polarisation
modulators enable us to maintain a modest RF power level.
2. Theoretical Investigation
The proposed comb generation module is shown in figure 1, and comprises a single DFB laser
source at 1546.8nm, and two sine wave driven balanced electro-optic modulators.
Fig. 1. Schematic diagram of comb generator experimental configuration
It is well known that for a continuous wave input with frequency f0, amplitude E0 and
phase φin, the output optical field Ek of the kth modulator can be represented as a series of
harmonic frequency components f0+pf where f0 is the optical carrier frequency, f is the
frequency of the sine wave drive, and p represents the harmonic number, p∈{0, ±1,
±2,…}[11]. The total field Ek is given by
Ek = E0
, ε p = Ap , k cos ⎡⎣ 2π ( f 0 + pf )t + θ p , k ⎤⎦
where the amplitudes Ap,k and phases θp,k of the components are given by
Ap , k =
cos[(ak + p) ]J p ( k ), θ p ,k = [1 + p + (−1) p ] + pφ1 + φin
In both equations, ak, bk and φk represent the DC offset, peak-to-peak amplitude, and phase of
the drive signal of the kth modulator respectively, and Jp is the Bessel function of the first kind
of order p. By considering each component generated from the first modulator as CW input to
the second, and summing all of the terms which result in an output from the second modulator
at a given harmonic frequency component f0+qf we obtain the total output field (Eout) from the
second modulator. Assuming, without loss of generality, that this results in a total output field
(Eout) of
Eout = E0
∑ε '
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εq ' =
∑ A { ( −1)
p ,1
2 p−q
Ap − q ,2 + ( −1) Aq − p ,2 ⎤ ⋅
⋅ cos ⎢2π ( f 0 + qf ) t + q + ( q − p ) φ2 ⎥ ⎬
We can see from Eq. (1) and Eq. (4) that the RF amplitudes (b1,2), DC bias (a1,2) and
relative phase difference (φ2) between the RF drive signals may be used to control the relative
amplitudes of each comb line, giving excellent control of the profile of the generated comb
signal. In particular, we may use these five variables to solve a set of five simultaneous
equations matching the amplitudes of the first five harmonics to the central carrier component
(ε0=εq, q=0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5). Given the inherent symmetry of the system εq=ε-q this implies that
ideally an 11 channels comb could be generated with 0 dB power variation. Note that, if one
of the amplitude modulators is replaced by a phase modulator [12], the cosine term, along
with the term (-1)p is omitted from Eq. (2), thus reducing by one the number of control
parameters available.
Figure 2 illustrates, for various numbers of comb lines, the calculated power variation
(flatness) of the side-bands when the same RF power (bk) is applied to both modulators
simultaneously and the RF phase and DC biases are optimised for each point. Under these
restrictive conditions negligible power variation is obtained for up to 11 comb lines, whilst a
flatness of less than 2 dB is obtained for up to 13 comb lines. It is interesting to note that total
bandwidths of close to or above 0.5 THz can be obtained with this method, whilst maintaining
a good flatness and that by tuning the RF amplitudes to 4.37 and 4.45 Vπ ideal flatness may be
Fig. 2. Optimised comb flatness versus relative drive amplifier amplitude for 7 (squares), 9
(circles), 11 (triangles), 13 (diamonds) and 15 (star) comb lines.
A more detailed analysis of the impact of the RF amplitudes on flatness for a comb of 11
lines is shown in figure 3. In this case, bk was set independently for each modulator, while the
DC biases and relative optical phases were optimised. It is clear that whilst voltages above 3.5
Vπ are necessary in order to achieve good flatness, values of less than 1 dB are possible for a
wide range of drive voltages, eliminating the need for controlled drive amplitudes, suggesting
that the comb can be controlled by a1, a2 and φ2 alone. For target RF values of around 4.5 dB,
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almost ideal flatness of 0 dB may be obtained, again with a reasonable tolerance to the drive
signal amplitudes. The point marked with a circle on figure 3 represents the experimental
operating position, as described below, with a flatness of less than 2 dB.
Fig. 3. Optimised comb flatness versus drive voltage applied to each modulator for 11 lines.
3. Experimental Configuration
The two 40 Gbit/s Versawave electro-optic polarisation modulators were driven with a sine
wave of frequency f = 42.6 GHz, and amplitudes b1 = 3.36 Vπ and b2 = 4.70 Vπ, synchronised
by an RF delay line. The modulators were based on GaAs polarisation mode converters, with
low Vπ (3.3 V and 3.7 V at 20 GHz), low insertion loss (4.3 dB and 6.0 dB), and 3 dB
bandwidths of 31 GHz and 49 GHz respectively. The combination of a wideband frequency
response and low Vπ enables a significant increase in the number of generated comb lines
without an increase in RF power levels in comparison to typical LiNbO3 modulators. The low
drive voltage of the GaAs mode converter results from the tight mode confinement that is
possible with etched semiconductor waveguides, while the high bandwidth results from lowloss, velocity matched slow-wave electrodes [13]. A further advantage of GaAs over LiNbO3
for high-power applications is that GaAs has much higher thermal conductivity (55 vs. 5.6
Wm-1K-1), potentially increasing the reliability during high power operation.
configuration yields a compact and square-shaped-like 11 lines optical comb, as shown in
figure 4.
The flatness achieved was 1.97 dB which is higher than the theoretical prediction (figure
3) of less than 1dB. We believe this is due to features of the experimental setup such as the
large amount of fibre between the two modulators which causes the optical phase to drift
during the measurement. A value of 12.6 dB was obtained for the SMSR of the optical comb.
Moreover, this setup also provides a phase coherent comb, suitable for CoWDM applications,
where each comb line could be independently modulated at 42.6 Gbit/s, enabling almost 0.5
Tbit/s of capacity using only one DFB laser.
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Fig. 4. Experimental spectrum of an 11 channel optical comb.
As with all applications of amplitude modulators, a degree of feedback control is
necessary in order to compensate for thermally induced bias point and RF power level drifts.
Observing from Eq. (1) that, for small drifts in parameters ak and bk, the impact of each
modulator may be effectively controlled by the DC bias ak alone, we implemented a simple
stabilisation circuit whereby the comb output is monitored using a scanning Fabry-Perot filter
(FSR = 13.7 THz, RBW = 6.1 GHz) and a low bandwidth photodiode in order to provide
feedback to the DC bias controls. This enabled stable comb performance over a period of
several hours.
4. Conclusions
In summary, we have reported a simple technique for generating a stable power efficient
square-shaped 11 channel optical comb with good flatness (<2 dB) and SMSR (>12 dB)
values. Theoretical results were presented showing the variation in comb flatness over a
range of applied RF power levels suggesting that 13 lines (553 GHz total bandwidth) may be
obtained with flatness better than 2 dB. For 11 comb lines (468 GHz total bandwidth), the
optimum comb flatness predicted from the theory agrees well with the experimental results.
The enabling components for applying this method of comb generation experimentally were
two low drive voltage modulators, i.e. Versawave electro-optic polarization modulators. The
comb channels are spaced by 42.6 GHz and are phase locked to each other, which makes this
comb generation technique suitable for use with a broad range of applications including
T. Healy would like to acknowledge IRCSET for a PhD scholarship. This material is based
upon work supported by the Science Foundation Ireland under Grant 03/IN.1/1340.
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Received 14 December 2006; accepted 13 February 2007
19 March 2007 / Vol. 15, No. 6 / OPTICS EXPRESS 2986