Widely tunable single- and multiple-pulse Er-doped passively modelocked fiber laser exploiting two semiconductor saturable absorber mirrors

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1 Widely tunable single- and multiple-pulse Er-doped passively modelocked fiber laser exploiting two semiconductor saturable absorber mirrors Antonio Malacarne *a, Claudio Porzi a, Jun Zhang b, Luca Poti c, Antonella Bogoni c a CEIRC Scuola Superiore Sant Anna, Via Moruzzi 1, Pisa, Italy b Department of Electronic Engineering, Tsinghua University, Beijing, China c Photonic Network National Laboratory CNIT, Via Moruzzi 1, Pisa, Italy ABSTRACT We report on a simple self-starting diode-pumped passively mode-locked Er-doped fibre laser based on two semiconductor saturable absorber mirrors (SESAMs), generating sub-picosecond stable optical pulses. Pulses duration between 350 and 650 fs (FWHM) was observed for pulses central wavelengths ranging between 1540 nm and 1570 nm. The cavity basic frequency was 3.7 MHz, and stable operation up to the third harmonic (11.1 MHz) was observed when the output power of the 980 nm diode pump was increased to its maximum value of 300 mw. The maximum average output power was mw, which corresponded to a pulse energy of 4 nj. Noise characterization of the mode-locked laser source was performed, in order to estimate the phase noise of the output pulses in terms of timing jitter. All the fiber components in the cavity were polarization maintaining in order to increase long-term stability of the laser operation. Keywords: wavelength tunable pulsed source, harmonic passively mode-locked fiber laser, ultra-short pulses, semiconductor saturable absorbers. 1. INTRODUCTION Erbium-doped fibers can be conveniently exploited to realize optical pulsed source operating in the 1.55 m spectral region, where the minimum of losses in standard communication optical fiber is attained, and for which the combined effect of negative group-velocity dispersion and Kerr nonlinear effects offer the possibility to generate optical solitons. Moreover, the large gain bandwidth of erbium-doped fibers is favourable for generating narrow pulses over a broad range of optical frequencies. Beside active mode-locking, passive mode-locking provides an alternative approach to generate ultra-short pulses that doesn t require any electrical modulation. Consequently, erbium-doped passively mode-locked fiber lasers ( Er-doped PMLFLs) have been the subject of several research efforts in the recent years. The main approaches to this kind of technique for generating ultra-short pulses in the sub-picosecond range are the use of Kerr nonlinearities or fast semiconductor saturable absorbers mirrors (SESAM) based on Multiple-Quantum-Wells (MQWs) structures. By using Kerr nonlinearities passive mode-locking was obtained by means of figure-eight configurations, exploiting the non linear transmission characteristic of nonlinear amplifying loop mirrors (NALMs) [1], [2] or by means of nonlinear polarization rotation [3],[4]. With respect to the other techniques, SESAM-based Er-doped PMLFLs ([5],[6]) offer the advantages of simple set-up, stable operation, high available pulse peak powers and soliton pulse formation. The variable keys parameters of SESAMs, such as recovery time and saturation fluence, offer additional advantages over other techniques in passively mode-locked lasers. Furthermore, SESAMs can be designed in order to be adapted to many wavelength by using different combinations of semiconductor layers and material parameters. For all these reasons, Er-doped PMLFLs based on SESAMs, is known to be one of the most effective technique for generating subpicosecond optical pulses in the 1550 nm spectral region. Such sources are generally used for manifold applications * phone ; fax Solid State Lasers and Amplifiers II, edited by Alphan Sennaroglu, Proc. of SPIE Vol. 6190, 61900T, (2006) X/06/$15 doi: / Proc. of SPIE Vol T-1

2 including high-speed optical sampling, devices characterization, optical reference clock generation, broadband spectroscopy, and telecom application (like high bit-rate time-division multiplexed optical systems and ultra long distance soliton fibre transmission systems). Two of the main desirable features in such kinds of optical pulsed sources are a high repetition rate of the output pulse train, and the possibility to change the pulses central wavelength. Generation of stable pulses at a repetition rate higher than the cavity fundamental frequency is often difficult since the mechanism for pulse self-ordering inside the cavity is very weak [7], resulting in soliton trains that are not equally spaced. Finally, self-starting operation is always desirable, because it avoids cumbersome techniques to initiate the mode-locked operation. In this work, we describe a self-starting, wavelength tunable, Er-doped PMLFL source which is able to produce stable, short optical pulses at higher harmonics of the cavity fundamental frequency. Phase noise characterization of the laser and timing jitter measurement is also reported. In particular, we exploited two SESAMs as the cavity end mirror, which are used to lock the longitudinal cavity modes in phase, leading to short optical pulses train. Wavelength tunability is obtained by means of an optical pass-band filter whose central wavelength could be varied over the entire Er-doped fiber gain bandwidth. All the fiber components in the cavity are polarization maintaining. 2. EXPERIMENT The experimental set-up we adopted for realizing the widely tunable Er-doped PMLFL is schematized in Fig. 1. The pulsed source is composed by two fast SESAMs (10-ps recovery time), a 15 m-long span of Erbium-doped fiber as the gain medium, pumped through a 980 nm laser diode, an optical coupler (coupling ratio: 50%) to provide pulse extraction, and a wide-bandwidth tunable optical filter having a 3-dB pass band of 13.5 nm. All the components in the cavity (including the Er-doped fiber) were polarization maintaining (PM), in order to avoid variations of pulses energy due to polarization-dependent gain/losses inside the cavity and to increase long term stability of the laser operation. The PM Er-doped fiber had a numerical aperture of 0.23, a cut-off wavelength of 899 nm, a measured beat length of 2.9 mm at 633 nm, attenuation of 8.5 db/km at 1200 nm and 5 db/m of absorption at 979 nm. Er-doped Fiber Pump diode 980 nm optical coupler SESAM 30% Position B Tunable OBF 50/50 SESAM 40% Position A OUT 1 OUT 2 Figure 1: Cavity configuration of the passively mode-locked Er-doped fiber laser exploiting two semiconductor saturable absorber mirrors (SESAMs). The two output branches OUT1 and OUT2 of the coupler were used to monitor time and spectral behavior of the output pulses by means of an optical autocorrelator, and an optical spectrum analyzer (OSA), respectively, as well as for RF characterization by means of a 125 MHz photodetector followed by an Electrical Spectrum Analyzer (ESA). Proc. of SPIE Vol T-2

3 The cavity end mirrors were provided by the two commercially available SESAMs, which incorporated Multiple Quantum Wells to provide saturable losses in the cavity, and an high reflectivity DBR mirror, which enabled reflection operation. The two SESAMs were mounted directly on the FC/PC connector on one side of a PM fiber patchcord, avoiding the use of aspheric lenses to focus light on the absorbers. The two absorption peak wavelength was 1563 nm and 1542 nm, with a reflectivity change between the saturated and unsaturated absorption state of 40 % and 30 %, respectively. By sending the output light of a Tunable Laser Source (TLS) to the nonlinear semiconductor mirrors, and collecting the reflected light on an OSA for different output wavelengths of the TLS, we measured the unsaturated lowpower spectral reflectivity for the 40% and 30% saturable absorbers as shown in Fig. 2 and Fig. 3, respectively. From the two figures it can be observed that the 40% saturable SESAM showed 20 nm of high saturable losses bandwidth around its absorption peak wavelength, whereas the 30 % saturable SESAM had a much broader absorbtion spectrum. -2-2,5-3 Unsaturated Spectral Reflectivity Reflectivity (db) -3,5-4 -4,5-5 -5, Figure 2: Low-power unsaturated spectral reflectivity versus wavelength for the 40 % saturable SESAM. -3-3,5 Unsaturated Spectral Reflectivity Reflectivity (db) -4-4,5-5 -5, Figure 3: Low-power unsaturated spectral reflectivity versus wavelength for the 30 % saturable SESAM. Proc. of SPIE Vol T-3

4 When the two absorbers were placed within the cavity as illustrated In Fig. 1, self-starting operation of the laser in the continuous mode-locked operation was easily achieved as the pump power was increased above a certain threshold value ( 100 mw), and stable optical pulses appeared. By acting on the tunable pass band filter central wavelength we were able to continuously tune the pulses central wavelength between 1543 nm and 1570 nm. We addressed this large tuning range of tunability to the wide absorption peak of the 30 % saturable SESAM, which had a -0,5dB-bandwidth of more than 40 nm around its central absorption peak wavelength at 1540 nm. Indeed, by replacing the 40% absorber with a high-reflectivity (HR) PM mirror the output pulse train was still tunable in the same wavelength range Power (dbm) Figure 4: Continuous wavelength tuning for mode-locked operation over nm range, for the configuration with the 40 % saturable SESAM in position A (see Fig.1) and the 30% saturable SESAM in position B (see Fig.1) Power (dbm) Figure 5: Continuous wavelength tuning for mode-locked operation over nm range, for the configuration with the HR-PM mirror in position A (see Fig.1) and the 30% saturable SESAM in position B (see Fig.1). Proc. of SPIE Vol T-4

5 Continuous wavelength tuning in the mode-locked operation over nm range for the two cases of both the SESAMs placed in the cavity and only the 30% saturable SESAM placed in the cavity are shown in Fig. 4 and Fig. 5, respectively. As long as the pump diode laser power was below 180 mw, we observed operation of the laser at the cavity fundamental frequency, i.e. single pulse circulating in the cavity, corresponding to a repetition rate of 3.7 MHz. Under this condition, the laser provided an output average power of about 15 mw. While changing the filter central wavelength, we simultaneously monitored the output pulses on a 500 MHz-BW Sampling Oscilloscope (through a 125 MHz-BW photodetector), a second-harmonic autocorrelator and an optical spectrum analyzer (OSA), in order to verify continuity of operation and extract pulse parameters. From the autocorrelation trace we measured different pulse width (assuming a sech 2 intensity profile) ranging from a minimum value of 355 fs at 1542 nm to a maximum of 650 fs at 1562 nm (as illustrated in Fig. 6). From the corresponding spectral traces, measured on the high resolution OSA, indicated optical bandwidths for the output pulses ranging between 7.3 nm at 1542 nm and 4.4 nm at 1564 nm (as illustrated in Fig. 7). The corresponding time-bandwidth product ranged between and 0.361, as illustrated in Fig. 8, where it can be seen that nearly transform-limited pulses were generated at lower wavelengths, whereas the measurements indicated that some chirp is present for the pulses generated at longer wavelengths Pulsewidth (ps) Bandwidth (nm) Figure 6: Pulsewidth (FWHM) vs. wavelength Figure 7: Bandwidth vs. wavelength Time-Bandwidth product T-B product Theoretical limit Figure 8: Time-Bandwidth product of the source output pulses vs. wavelength assuming a sech 2 intensity profile Proc. of SPIE Vol T-5

6 No attempt to compensate for the dispersion inside the cavity was made due to the lack of a polarization-maintaining dispersion-compensating fiber (DCF). However, external cavity dispersion compensation could be introduced in order to compress the higher-wavelength chirped pulses. Without any optical filter in the cavity, the laser central frequency was 1563 nm, as shown in Fig. 9, and the pulsewidth was measured to be 400 fs, as illustrated in Fig. 10. In this case, an output mean power of ~16 mw, corresponding to a pulse energy of 4 nj, was observed Intensity (10 db/div.) Figure 9: Optical spectrum without any optical filter, with a -3dB-bandwidth about 8 nm 1 0,9 0,8 FWHM=0.667 Intensity (a.u.) 0,7 0,6 0,5 0,4 0,3 0,2 0, ,5 1 1,5 2 2,5 3 3,5 4 4,5 5 time (ps) Figure 10: Autocorrelation trace of the pulse at the output of the fiber laser with no optical filter in the cavity Furthermore, in this condition, an increase in the pump laser power over 180 mw, induced multiple-pulse regime as a consequence of energy quantization. However, in this high power regime the absorption modulation introduced by the Proc. of SPIE Vol T-6

7 two SESAMs increased, providing a mode-locking driving force at exactly each half period of the round-trip time. Thus, an effective absorption modulation at twice the fundamental frequency was present in the cavity, leading to a train of fairly evenly spaced optical pulses at 7.4 MHz. The correct spacing of the pulses was confirmed by observing the down-converted RF signal on an Electrical Spectrum Analyzer (ESA), which showed suppression of the spurious harmonic at 3.7 MHz of more than 35 db with respect to the 7.4 MHz tone, as illustrated in Fig. 11. For the configuration with one SESAM and one mirror, this suppression value decreased to 25 db. Further increase of the pump power (over 270 mw), resulted in a pulse rate 11.1 MHz (three pulses evenly spaced inside the cavity). Again, for the two SESAMs configutation, the down converted RF signal showed a 35 db suppression of the spurious harmonics at 3.7 and 7.4 MHz with respect to the 11.1 MHz signal, which reduced to 20 db of suppression for the configuration exploiting only one SESAM. Higher-order operation of the laser could not be verified due to the limited power of the pump diode laser ( 300 mw). It should be noticed that fiber cavities as short as few meters can be easily implemented, corresponding to a fundamental frequency of several tens of MHz Power (dbm) Frequency (MHz) Figure 11: Down-converted RF spectrum of the mode-locked laser in the second harmonic regime for the configuration with two SESAMs and without any optical filter. Suppression of the spurious harmonic at multiples of 3.7 MHz is greater than 35 db 3. TIMING JITTER ESTIMATION For a given frequency range [f L, f H ], the rms timing jitter of the output pulses can be calculated from the power density P(f) displayed by the RF spectrum analyzer as [8]: 1 j f L, f H 2 nf 0 P P sb c being P c the power of the displayed spectral components, n the order of the components, f 0 the pulses repetition rate, and: P sb nf0 f H nf0 f L f 2P df 1.2 B Proc. of SPIE Vol T-7

8 Where B is the ESA resolution bandwidth. In order to avoid any contribution from amplitude fluctuations in the phase noise calculation, the order of the spectral components has to be chosen sufficiently high [8]. By measuring the 9 th component in the down-converted RF spectrum we calculated the timing jitter in the frequency range between 100 Hz 1 MHz for the fundamental frequency, second, and third harmonic operation to be 4.88 ps, 2.5 ps, and 3.58 ps, respectively. The corresponding single-sideband phase-noise power spectrum for the 9 th component in the three operating conditions are represented in Fig. 12, Fig 13, and Fig. 14, respectively. -65 Rep. Rate=3.7 MHz, 9th harmonic, t.j.(100hz-1mhz)=4.88ps dbc/hz Frequency (Hz) Figure 12: Single-sideband noise power spectrum of the 9 th component at the cavity fundamental frequency (3.7 MHz) operation. Rep. Rate=7.4 MHz, 9th harmonic, t.j.(100hz-1mhz)=2.5ps -80 dbc/hz Frequency (Hz) Figure 13: Single-sideband noise power spectrum of the 9 th component for 2 nd harmonic (7.2 MHz) operation. Proc. of SPIE Vol T-8

9 dbc/hz Rep. Rate=11.1 MHz, 9th harmonic, t.j.(100hz-1mhz)=3.58ps Frequency (Hz) Figure 14: Single-sideband noise power spectrum of the 9 th component for 3 rd harmonic (11.1 MHz) operation. 4. CONCLUSIONS In summary, we report a simple scheme to generate 350-fs stable optical pulses, with peak power greater than 10 KW, in a self-starting Er-doped two SESAMs-based PMLFL, in an all-pm scheme. The configuration with two absorbers, was effective in providing strong pulse ordering in harmonic operation. For the second-harmonic operation, we obtained suppression of the spurious harmonic at multiples of 3.7 MHz of more than 35 db with respect to the 7.4 MHz (and multiples) tone. For the third-harmonic operation a suppression between db of the spurious harmonics at 3.7 and 7.4 MHz with respect to the 11.1 MHz tone, was observed. By using a wide-bandwidth tunable optical filter into the cavity, wavelength tunability over a range of 30 nm was observed. Finally, noise characterization of the mode-locked laser sources was performed, in order to estimated the phase noise characteristic of the output pulse train. We measured a timing jitter of about 4.9 ps in the frequency range 100 Hz-1 MHz for the first-harmonic operation, while for secondand third-harmonic operations we found a timing jitter of 2.5 and 3.6 ps, respectively. REFERENCES 1. V. Tzelepis, Th. Sphicopulos, and C. Caroubalos, Passive Harmonic Mode-Locking in All-Fibre Soliton Laser: Energy States and Stability Aspects, IEEE Phot. Technol. Lett., vol. 6, pp , I.N. Duling III, Subpicosecond all-fibre erbium laser Electron. Leet., vol. 27, pp , March V.J. Matsas, T.P. Newson, D.J. Richardson, and D.N. Payne, Selfstarting passively mode-locked fibre ring soliton laser exploiting nonlinear polarisation rotation, Electronics Lett., vol. 28, pp , H.A. Haus, and E.P. Ippen, Short-pulse fiber lasers, in Proc. CLEO 96, pp , B. C. Collings, K. Bergman, S. T. Cundiff, S. Tsuda, J. N. Kutz, J.E. Cunnigham, W.Y. Jan, and M. Koch, and W. H. Knox Short Cavity Ebium/Ytterbium Fiber Lasers Mode-Locked with a Saturable Bragg Reflector IEEE J. Select. Topics Quantum Electron., vol. 3, pp , W. H. Loh, D. Atkinson, P. R. Morkel, M. Hopkinson, A. Rivers, A. J. Seeds, and D. N. Payne, Passively mode-locked Er 3+ fiber laser using a semiconductor nonlinear mirror, IEEE Photon. Technol. Lett., vol. 5, pp-35-37, A. B. Grudinin and S. Gray, Passive harmonic mode locking in soliton fiber lasers, J. Opt. Soc. Am. B, vol. 14, pp , Andrew Finch, Xiaonong Zhu, Peter N. Kean, and Wilson Sibbett, Noise Characterization of Mode-Locked Color-Center Laser Sources, IEEE Journal of Quantum Electronics, Vol. 26, No. 6, June 1990 Proc. of SPIE Vol T-9

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