Intermodal parametric frequency conversion in optical fibers
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Lasers are an essential technology enabling countless fields of optics, however, their operation wavelengths are limited to isolated regions across the optical spectrum due to the need for suitable gain media. Parametric frequency conversion (PFC) is an attractive means to convert existing lasers to new colors using nonlinear optical interactions rather than the material properties of the host medium, allowing for the development of high power laser sources across the entire optical spectrum. PFC in bulk χ(2) crystals has led to the development of the optical parametric oscillator, which is currently the standard source for high power light at non-traditional wavelengths in the laboratory setting. Ideally, however, one could implement PFC in an optical fiber, thus leveraging the crucial benefits of a guided-wave geometry: alignment-free, compact, and robust operation. Four-wave mixing (FWM) is a nonlinear effect in optical fibers that can be used to convert frequencies, the major challenge being conservation of momentum, or phase matching, between the interacting light waves. Phase matching can be satisfied through the interaction of different spatial modes in a multi-mode fiber, however, previous demonstrations have been limited by mode stability and narrow-band FWM gain. Alternatively, phase matching within the fundamental mode can be realized in high-confinement waveguides (such as photonic crystal fibers), but achieving the anomalous waveguide dispersion necessary for phase matching at pump wavelengths near ∼1 μm (where the highest power fiber lasers emit) comes at the cost of reducing the effective area of the mode, thus limiting power-handling. Here, we specifically consider the class of Bessel-like LP0,m modes in step-index fibers. It has been shown that these modes can be selectively excited and guided stably for long lengths of fiber, and mode stability increases with mode order ‘m’. The effective area of modes in these fibers can be very large (>6000 μm2 demonstrated) and is decoupled from dispersion, allowing for phase matching within a single mode in a power-scalable platform. Furthermore, step-index fibers can guide many different LP0,m modes, allowing access to a highly multi-moded basis set with which to study FWM interactions between different modes. In this thesis we develop techniques to excite, propagate, and characterize LP0,m modes in order to demonstrate FWM in two regimes: monomode interactions comprising waves all belonging to the same mode, and intermodal interactions between different modes. In the monomode regime we demonstrate parametric sources which operate at near-infrared wavelengths under-served by conventional fiber lasers, including 880, 974, 1173, and 1347 nm. The output pulses for these systems are ∼300 ps in duration and reach peak powers of ∼10 kW, representing, to the best our knowledge, the highest peak power fiber laser sources demonstrated at these wavelengths to date. In the intermodal regime, we demonstrate a cascade of FWM processes between different modes that lead to a series of discrete peaks in the visible portion of the spectrum, increasing monotonically in mode order from LP0,7 at 678 nm to LP0,16 at 443 nm. This cascade underscores the huge number of potential FWM interactions between different LP0,m modes available in a highly multi-mode fiber, which scale as N4 for N guided modes. Finally, we demonstrate a novel intermodal FWM process pumped between the LP0,4 and LP0,5 modes of a step-index fiber, which provides broadband FWM gain (63 nm at 1550 nm) while maintaining wavelength separations of nearly an octave (762 nm) – a result that cannot be replicated in the single-mode regime. We seed this process to generate a ∼10 kW, ∼300-ps pulsed fiber laser wavelength-tunable from 786-795 nm; representing a fiber analogue of the ubiquitous Ti:Sapphire laser.