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Photonic generation of arbitrary signals

How optics can do better than electronic signal generators?

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Whether in optics or electronics, the generation of signals is most often done using an arbitrary waveform generator (or AWG). The capabilities of digital-to-analog converters limit the bandwidth of these signals to a few tens of GHz. Purely optical techniques using broad-band lasers (mode-locked lasers) can generate signals with much larger bandwidths (several THz), but with pulse durations limited to the ps range.

In collaboration with a team from INRS in Montreal, we demonstrated a new technique of photonic generation of arbitrary signals, which allows, from a continuous laser, and a low frequency electronics (10 MHz), to generate arbitrary signals with durations up to 100 ns, and bandwidths greater than 25 GHz (limited by the speed of our detection system). This technique relies on the use of a frequency shifting optical loop injected by a continuous laser. It suffices to modulate the injection laser with a signal that reproduces the Fourier transform of the desired output signal. A time-frequency projection effect makes it possible to reproduce the input temporal signal in the spectrum of the output signal. These results have just been published in Nature Communications.

View online : Programmable broadband optical field spectral shaping with megahertz resolution using a simple frequency shifting loop, Côme Schnébelin, José Azaña & Hugues Guillet de Chatellus, Nature Communications (2019)