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  • Optical Bench Supports Research

Photonics Spectra
Apr 2002
Brent D. Johnson

As photonics strives to reach parity with the semiconductor industry, the quest for automated fiber alignment and packaging solutions has become the focus of an industry bent on high-volume manufacturing. However, few advances have been made recently to assist researchers in prototyping and developing new concepts.

This device provides a compact fiber-coupling platform for a research project at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

At the Los Alamos National Laboratory, Justin Torgerson, a researcher in atomic spectroscopy and quantum optics, was trying to add stability to his multiple laser diode-based systems. He wanted to make compact systems on independently supported optical benches.

One of the most obvious obstacles he faced was the large size of commercially available fiber-coupling platforms. Instead, he chose a FiberBench from Optics for Research Inc. He is using the compact system and the company's other components, such as compact wave plates and polarizing beamsplitters, to conserve valuable breadboard space.

Torgerson's setup includes five FiberBench systems as single-mode fiber couplers, and multiple Fiber-Bench wave plates, beamsplitters and optical isolators to complement the extended-cavity diode laser, stabilized Fabry-Perot reference, acousto-optic modulators (used as fast switches) and other optical components. Together they make a "Cadillac" spectroscopic tool on a 1 x 2-ft optical breadboard.

The use of FiberPorts to couple light from the extended-cavity diode system into and out of the apparatus allows the breadboard to be supported with a weak restoring force, which isolates it from most room noise above a few hertz. The ports have five degrees of positioning freedom for a collimated beam, and they clamp to the FiberBench like a miniature breadboard.

The other available options, Torgerson said, were just too bulky. You could do the same thing with a custom-made mount, he added, but there are no commercially made systems that are as compact.

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