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An Optical Diode From Nonlinear Light Absorbers

Photonics.com
Jul 2009
Jul. 14, 2009 — An interesting study was taken up by Dr. Reji Philip of the Raman Research Institute, Bangalore, on a novel kind of optical diode, while he was working on a sabbatical in the research group of Prof. D.V.G.L.N. Rao of the physics department, University of Massachusetts, Boston.

In addition to Prof. Rao who heads the team, Dr. Chandra S. Yelleswarapu of the same department and Dr. M. Anija from the Raman Research Institute (presently at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore) also participated in the study. The study was motivated by the fact that passive devices that allow unidirectional propagation of an optical signal, i.e., passive optical diodes, are currently receiving much attention as an alternative to the conventional optical isolator, which is an active device based on linear polarizers and a magneto-optical Faraday rotator.

The research team investigated the transmission of optical pulses through structures in which the nonlinear absorption coefficient varied along the direction of beam propagation. A saturable absorber placed in tandem with a reverse saturable absorber is an example of such a device (the optical transmission increases in saturable absorbers, and decreases in reverse saturable absorbers, when the input light intensity is increased). Fabrication of such a structure is much easier compared to say, that of a photonic crystal.

Most optical diodes reported in literature are generally based on photonic crystals, which are dielectric or metallodielectric media, with a spatial periodicity in their refractive index. The other reported optical diodes include fluorescent dyes with a concentration gradient, absorbing multilayer systems, and second harmonic generators with a spatially varying wave vector mismatch.

As the basic transmission behavior of such a structure in mutually opposite directions was worked out from detailed numerical simulations, the team found out that the device showed a passive all-optical diode behavior. Experimental results confirmed that this principle worked for all light polarizations, has no phase-matching restrictions, and can be extended to a large number of available nonlinear media for possible applications.

With inputs from Usha Prasad, associate partner, PC Mediaworks, according to Dr. Philip, at the excitation wavelength of 532 nm used in the experiment (from an Nd:YAG laser), a commercial color glass filter showed strong saturable absorption, while a solution of the commercially available copper phthalocyanine (CuPc) powder showed reverse saturable absorption. When these media were placed in tandem, it resulted in an optical diode.

A structure of this kind has the advantage that it is all-optical and polarization independent, and it can withstand high optical intensities. Furthermore, its organization is extremely simple. The materials constituting the optical diode were individually subjected to high optical intensities several times, and no optical damage was observed.

There are a large number of optically nonlinear materials that can be used likewise, without involving any sophisticated fabrication process. By choosing highly nonlinear materials such as liquid crystals and optical fibers, it should be possible to operate the device at different wavelengths and at much lower laser intensity levels than presently used.

In conclusion, Prof. Rao and team studied the optical transmission of a medium characterized by an asymmetry in its longitudinal nonlinear absorption coefficient, and showed numerically and experimentally that a passive all-optical diode of high contrast can be realized in such structures.

Pradeep
 
July 14, 2009








GLOSSARY
adsorption
The process by which a substance, usually a solid, attracts and retains on its surface the molecules of another substance.
dielectric
Exhibiting the characteristic of materials that are electrical insulators or in which an electric field can be sustained with a minimum dispersion of power. They exhibit nonlinear properties, such as anisotropy of conductivity or polarization, or saturation phenomena.
diode
A two-electrode device with an anode and a cathode that passes current in only one direction. It may be designed as an electron tube or as a semiconductor device.
optical diode
See Faraday rotation; optoisolator.
photonic crystal
polarization
With respect to light radiation, the restriction of the vibrations of the magnetic or electric field vector to a single plane. In a beam of electromagnetic radiation, the polarization direction is the direction of the electric field vector (with no distinction between positive and negative as the field oscillates back and forth). The polarization vector is always in the plane at right angles to the beam direction. Near some given stationary point in space the polarization direction in the beam...
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