A tunable laser is a type of laser that enables precise control over the output wavelength. Tunable lasers provide flexibility and versatility in a variety of applications where precise control over the output wavelength is necessary, in contrast to fixed-wavelength lasers. They are useful tools for spectroscopy, optical sensing, telecommunication, and scientific study because of their capabilities.
The use of a variable resonator or gain medium is the basic idea behind tunable lasers. The emission wavelength of the laser can be modified by adjusting the gain medium’s properties or the resonator’s specifications.
To make lasers tunable, numerous processes are employed: Tunable lasers based on gratings The wavelength-selective component of grating-based tunable lasers is diffraction grating. To make lasers tunable, numerous processes are employed:
The wavelength of the laser can be altered by rotating the grating or altering its spacing. A distributed feedback (DFB) or distributed Bragg reflector (DBR) structure, which offers a short linewidth and stable operation, is frequently used in these lasers.
Lasers with External Cavity Tunable: adjustable external cavity lasers use an external cavity with an adjustable component within, like a moving mirror or a prism. The wavelength of the laser can be altered by moving the tunable element. Wide tuning range and high output power are features of external cavity tunable lasers.
Tunable Lasers Based on Semiconductor Optical Amplifiers (SOA): The gain medium in SOA-based tunable lasers is a semiconductor optical amplifier. Wavelength tuning is possible by modifying the amplifier’s temperature or current injection, which changes the medium’s gain profile or refractive index. These lasers frequently fit into optical communication systems and are portable.
Fiber-based tunable lasers: To achieve tunability, fiber-based tunable lasers employ a variety of techniques. One typical method is to insert a tunable filter into the laser cavity, such as a fiber Bragg grating or an acousto-optic tunable filter.
The adjustable filter’s characteristics allow for fine-tuning of the laser’s emission wavelength. Excellent stability, a small linewidth, and fiber optic system compatibility are all features of these lasers. Tunable lasers are used in a variety of industries, including:
Tunable lasers are essential to optical communication systems in the field of telecommunications. By offering various wavelengths for sending numerous signals concurrently over a single fiber, they make wavelength division multiplexing (WDM) possible. Tunable lasers make system design easier and enable adjustable wavelength allocation.
Tunable lasers are utilized in spectroscopy, microscopy, and other optical studies in scientific studies. They enable the investigation of molecular or atomic transitions, the exploration of material properties, and the selective probing of various absorption or emission lines. To acquire exact and thorough measurements, it is necessary to be able to adjust the laser’s wavelength.
Tunable lasers are essential in optical sensing processes such as gas sensing, environmental monitoring, and biological diagnostics. Tunable lasers allow for extremely sensitive and selective tests by adjusting the laser wavelength to the target material’s precise absorption or scattering characteristics.
Tunable lasers can be utilized for optical coherence tomography (OCT) imaging, which produces high-resolution cross-sectional pictures of biological tissues, in imaging applications. In order to produce vivid and high-quality images, tunable lasers are also used in display technologies like digital light processing (DLP) or laser projection systems.
Material Processing: Tunable lasers are useful for cutting, drilling, welding, and other laser-based material processing techniques. Different materials can be accurately targeted by varying the laser wavelength, which optimizes the interaction between the laser beam and the substance.
Laser, materials science, and control system breakthroughs have fueled the creation of tunable lasers. Their capabilities have been improved, and they are becoming more and more valuable in a variety of applications due to constant improvements in tuning range, linewidth, output power, and durability.
The Global Tunable Laser Market accounted for $XX Billion in 2022 and is anticipated to reach $XX Billion by 2030, registering a CAGR of XX% from 2023 to 2030.
A new, broadly tunable laser module is now available, according to Pilot Photonics, a Dublin-based company. It is asserted to be the only commercially available tunable laser that provides the difficult-to-combine nanosecond switching and narrow linewidth, resolving a persistent issue in the industry.
Narrow linewidth or quick tuning is often the only two options available from widely adjustable semiconductor lasers. Electronically tunable lasers have historically been employed in optical fiber sensing systems for their quick tuning over a wide tuning range, which is accomplished using a current injection tuning process.
For demanding phase-sensitive applications like coherent optical communication and frequency-modulated continuous wave (FMCW) LiDAR, these lasers’ line widths, however, make them unsuitable. The linewidth can be decreased by switching to a thermal tuning mechanism, although doing so limits switching speed, making the laser unusable for some of these applications.
The monolithic InP chip used in the laser from Pilot Photonics was constructed on an active-passive platform. Electro-optic tuning with the reverse-voltage bias of the tuning sections permits mA-order dark currents and makes it possible for switching to occur at nanosecond rates with little power loss. It provides a linewidth of 150 kHz and a tuning range of more than 30 nm in either the C-band or the O-band.
The company is also creating a nano-iTLA module for high-volume applications, which is currently being developed. It will be integrated into OEM or laboratory instrument form-factor modules or be currently available in 14-pin butterfly packages.
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