Filter Chips for High-Quality Lasers

This three-square-millimeter filter chip can take the output of low-cost lasers and convert it such that it has the same frequency noise as bigger and significantly more expensive lasers. (Source: Penn Eng.)

Many emerging techno­logies rely on high-quality lasers. Laser-based Lidar sensors can provide highly accurate scans of three-dimensional spaces, and as such are crucial in appli­cations ranging from auto­nomous vehicles to geological mapping techno­logies and emergency response systems. High-quality lasers are also a key part of the high-speed, high-volume data centers that are the backbone of the internet.

When assessing the quality of a laser, researchers look to the noise in a laser’s frequency, or the number of times the laser’s light wave toggles in each second. Low-quality, noisy lasers have more random variations in those toggles, making them useless for systems that are meant to return accurate measure­ments or convey densely packed infor­mation. At present, lasers with adequately low frequency noise are bulky, expensive and an impractical choice for mass manu­facturing. Penn Engineers have set out to solve this problem with a phase noise filter that can turn low-cost, compact lasers into those suitable for Lidar and more.

Firooz Aflatouni, Skirkanich Assistant Pro­fessor in Electrical and Systems Engi­neering, is an expert at combining photonic and electronic elements on single micro­chips, getting the most out of both systems. Now, he and lab member Mohamad Hossein Idjadi have applied this expertise toward reducing low-cost lasers’ frequency noise, achieving the same, if not better, perfor­mance as the larger, more expensive lasers. (Source: U. Pennsylvania)

Reference: M. H. Idjadi & F. Aflatouni: Nanophotonic phase noise filter in silicon, Nat. Phot. 14, 234 (2020); DOI: 10.1038/s41566-020-0605-1

Link: Electronic Photonic Microsystems Lab, Dept. of Electrical and Systems Engineering, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA

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