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Broadband MIR Source Facilitates Fiber, Fiber Optics-Based Sensing

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A light source that generates a highly stable broadband mid-infrared (MIR) beam in the wavelength range of 2.5 to 3.7 μm and that, in testing, maintained its full brightness due to its high beam quality supports the simplification of fiber optic-based environmental monitoring systems. The light source features a simple configuration and is a necessary component of a MIR fiber optic sensor that has applications in industrial and medical applications.

A research team of the National Institutes of Natural Sciences, the National Institute for Fusion Science, and Akita Prefectural University, all in Japan, demonstrated the light source and sensor technology.

Due to the charge of their rotational and vibrational states, multiple strong molecular absorption lines are present in the MIR region. MIR sources therefore show promise in sensitive remote monitoring systems. This is especially true of systems that are fiber optic based (such as a fiber optic sensor based on MIR absorption spectroscopy). Such a device shows potential in gas detection (industrial settings) and breath analysis (medical settings).

To optimize that kind of a system, however, such a device would require an MIR light source capable of exhibiting broadband spectrum and high beam quality.

The new work demonstrates an ultrabroadband amplified spontaneous emission (ASE) source in the MIR, meeting those coveted requirements.

Diode-pumped configuration showing the enabling of a compact/low-cost device construction. Courtesy of the National Institute for Fusion Science.
Diode-pumped configuration showing the enabling of a compact/low-cost device construction. Courtesy of the National Institute for Fusion Science.
The researchers first custom-developed an optical fiber using fluoride glass co-doped with trivalent ions of erbium (Er) and dysprosium (Dy). The completed fiber enabled a simple, low-cost ASE light source configuration with diode-pumping stemming from an elemental energy transfer. The researchers were able to then investigate a broadband and moderate power ASE light source (2.5 to 3.7 μm) experimentally for the optimal design of fluoride fiber, considering factors of fiber length, ion concentration, pumping configuration, and pumping power.

The light source’s excellent beam quality also enabled high coupling efficiency using an external optical fiber, the researchers reported.

In addition to industrial and life sciences applications, research team member Hiyori Uehara said the light source can facilitate the inspection of fiber optic devices.

Uehara said that the team plans further research aimed at demonstrating highly sensitive multiple-gas detection using a MIR fiber sensor and that work in that area is currently ongoing.

The research was published in Scientific Reports (www.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-84950-y).

Photonics Handbook
Research & TechnologyeducationJapanAsia Pacificlight sourcesbroadband light sourcesmid-infrared broadband light sourcesMIRMIR absorption spectroscopyfiber sensingfiber optic sensingfiber opticsmedicalindustrialASE light sourcesdiode laserspump laserslasersbiosensingErbium

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