Resonant Cavity Nonlinear Detectors for Optical Signal Processing
Prof. Thomas E. Murphy
|Dr. Thomas E. Murphy
In recent years, there has been enormous progress in the ability to transmit information over optical fiber. In present-day networks, signal processing is performed with high-speed electrical circuits, where well-established integrated circuit technology can be employed. Although electronic circuits will continue to have a role in optical networks, optical signal processing through nonlinear interactions could greatly simplify several important functions, such as pattern/address recognition, quality monitoring, and clock recovery.
The goal of this work is to design and build a new type of resonant nonlinear photodetector that could be used for optical signal processing. The physical mechanism that enables nonlinear photodetection is two-photon absorption (TPA): a process in which two photons are simultaneously absorbed in a photodiode to generate a single electron-hole pair. Unlike conventional photodetection, two-photon absorption produces a photocurrent proportional to the square of the optical power. Because of this quadratic nonlinearity, two-photon absorption can be used to measure the correlation between high-speed optical signals.
The challenge faced by nonlinear photodetectors is that they often require impractically high optical intensity to achieve a photocurrent with sufficient signal-to-noise ratio. In this project, we plan to enhance the sensitivity of two-photon absorption by confining the light in waveguide-based resonant cavities. Waveguides will significantly increase the rate of two-photon absorption by confining the optical signal to a small area, thereby overcoming the diffraction-limited performance of bulk photodetectors. Resonant cavities provide additional confinement in the third dimension, which will further increase efficiency. In applications that do not require femtosecond resolution, the resonant cavity provides a way to trade response time for improved sensitivity.
Preliminary research indicates that by using microresonators it will be possible to construct nonlinear photodetectors with sufficient temporal resolution to process 400 Gb/s optical signals, a feat that is impossible with today's linear photodetectors. The sensitivity of two-photon absorption in microresonators is predicted to be several orders of magnitude higher than in conventional nonlinear photodetectors, and should enable practical devices that need only
micro-Watts of optical input power.
Ultra-sensitive nonlinear detectors could become critical building blocks for a variety of applications. Some of the specific applications that we are currently exploring include optical clock recovery systems, optical demultiplexing, high-speed optical sampling for quality assessment, and optical address recognition. In each of these applications, the improved efficiency provided by microresonators will enable a new generation of high-speed optical processing components that operate with micro-Watt input powers and do not require bulky and expensive optical amplifiers.
For further details on this and other projects in the Photonics Research Laboratory, please visit:
Publications related to this and other projects can be found at:
National Science Foundation (NSF)
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