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2600B SERIES TUNABLE LASER SOURCES:

072 APPLICATION NOTE


WAVELENGTH UNCERTAINTY AND
USER CALIBRATION PROCEDURES

Marie-Hélène Côté, Product Manager, Industrial and Scientific Division

Two years ago, EXFO introduced an erbium-doped fiber tunable laser to meet the industry’s need for characterizing the wavelength dependence
of WDM components. Our 2600B series of wide-range tunable laser sources offers:
flat output power
high optical signal-to-ASE noise ratio for wide dynamic range measurement
excellent wavelength and power uncertainty for accurate repeatable measurements
high-speed tuning for fast characterization

These exceptional characteristics, combined with the signal’s medium coherence length, make the 2600B Tunable Laser Source the instrument
of choice for the characterization of passive components.

Part one of this paper will provide a general overview of the principles behind the design of these sources. Part two will discuss the importance
of the sources’ outstanding ± 15 pm wavelength uncertainty specification. The final part will describe simple user calibration procedures to
maintain optimum source performance.

Figure 1. EXFO’s tunable laser is available as a stand-alone instrument (FLS-2600B) or as a modular instrument (IQS-2600B)

Rugged Design Ensures Optimal Performance


The outstanding performance of EXFO’s tunable lasers is due mainly to their simple, but robust, tuning mechanism design (see Figure 2).
The erbium-doped fiber (EDF) is pumped backwards through a WDM coupler by a high-power laser diode emitting at 980 nm. A polarization
controller is used to align the state of polarization of the light incident on the thin-film
interference bandpass filter and on the axis of the polarizing isolator. The tuning mechanism
is based on the filter’s rotation in front of the collimated beam that continuously changes the
wavelength at which constructive interference occurs. As the filter is rotated in one
direction, the transmission wavelength gets lower or higher, while achieving more than
100 nm tuning within a 30-degree rotation. Once the signal goes through the optical block,
a fiber-optic splitter, inserted in the fiber cavity, completes the design by coupling the power
out of the cavity.

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Traceability
Source calibration is achieved by measuring the wavelength of the signal emitted by the source with a reference wavelength meter and saving
this value in the encoder of the high-precision motor. Each rotating motor step (supporting the tunable filter) is then associated to a specific
wavelength value with resolutions as low as 1 pm. Figure 3 shows the traceability chain for EXFO’s 2600B Tunable Laser Source.

Figure 3. Traceability of IQ-, IQS- and FLS-2600B

To maximize the performance of the source in a standard operating environment, the effect of temperature on the filter’s central wavelength
must be considered. This tunable filter’s wavelength-to-temperature dependence is linear, within the range of operation, and each filter is
composed of the same material. Therefore, if the internal temperature is measured and an offset compensation is applied to the motor position,
the effect of temperature can be reduced and controlled. The remaining error is less than 0.5 pm/°C from the calibration condition of 23 °C.

This calibration procedure ensures that all 2600B Tunable Laser Sources meet the specified ± 15 pm wavelength uncertainty.
EXFO recommends that all of its tunable lasers undergo an annual verification to ensure top performance.

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Wavelength Uncertainty
First, let us define wavelength uncertainty. Wavelength uncertainty relates to the absolute accuracy of the wavelength value displayed by
the source. It is the wavelength error (in pm, measured in vacuum), which expresses the difference between the wavelength displayed by the
module and the absolute wavelength. The wavelength uncertainty specified for our tunable lasers also takes into account the wavelength
uncertainty of the reference wavelength meter and the wavelength repeatability of the source.

Wavelength uncertainty is the most stringent requirement in WDM and DWDM component testing. For 0.8 nm (100 GHz) channel spacing,
most system manufacturers believe optical filters should be characterized within a minimum accuracy of ± 20 pm, as typical –3 dB bandwidth
is ± 0.2 nm. This is especially true at specific channel points such as –1 dB and –3 dB bandwidth, or when characterizing central and peak
transmission wavelengths. All 2600B Tunable Laser Sources comply with this extremely narrow ± 15 pm range.

The wavelength uncertainty of a source can be verified by following the procedure below.

Verification Procedure
To perform this procedure, you will need a patchcord and wavelength meter. We recommend using the IQ-5320 Multi-Wavelength Meter
(MWM) or Burleigh’s WA-1100. Please note that this test should only be performed after a warmup period of at least one hour. Do not perform
the test if the ambient room temperature is too high (above 30 ºC).

If using the IQ-5320 MWM, set it to Continuous Monitoring (see Figure 4) and make sure the detection peak threshold is equal to 10 dB
(see Figure 5).

Figure 4. Setting the IQ-5320 to Continuous Monitoring mode

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Figure 5. Setting the detection threshold on the IQ-5320

1. Set the source to 1510.000 nm (see Figure 6) and read the measured wavelength with the wavemeter (see Figure 7).
Record the difference between the two values.

Figure 6. Setting the source to 1510 nm

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Figure 7. Reading the measured wavelength on the IQ-5320

2. Set the source to 1515.000 nm and read the measured wavelength with the wavemeter. Note the difference between the two values.
3. Continue this procedure over the entire wavelength range every 5 nm. The differences should not be larger than 15 pm over the whole
wavelength range.
4. If the source does not comply, a user-performed calibration should be carried out at 1560 nm (see instructions below) with the
wavemeter. If this is the case, the verification procedure should then be repeated. The new results should fall within published
specifications. If not, contact EXFO’s Technical Support Group.

User Calibration Procedures


To maintain optimal operating conditions, user calibrations should occasionally be performed on the source with a calibrated wavelength
meter. If the source has been exposed to very low temperatures (e.g. during transportation or storage), the encoder may shift from its original
zero position. Performing a user calibration offsets the calibration curve, thus providing accurate wavelength settings over the entire operating
range. Please note that a one-hour warmup period is required for the source’s internal temperature to stabilize. If the source is turned off during
the warmup period and then turned back on, another hour will be required for it to reach a stable temperature.

EXFO recommends that user calibrations be carried out at approximately 1560 nm because the wavelength change for each motor’s
incremental step is not exactly the same throughout the entire wavelength range. If this is done while the source is set at one end of the
wavelength range, the setting at the other end will be either over- or under-corrected. Therefore, to reach the ± 15 pm specification, a second
calibration would have to be performed at the other end of the wavelength range. If you are using the source in a small wavelength range (e.g.,
1510 nm to 1530 nm), you may decide to perform the user calibration at the range’s midpoint. However, before using the source outside this
small range, EXFO recommends verifying the wavelength uncertainty on the whole wavelength range and performing a user calibration at
1650 nm if necessary.

Note: The offset entered in the IQ-, IQS- or FLS-2600B software cannot be disabled. To compensate for a handling error during the procedure, repeat
the steps above with a calibrated wavelength meter.

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IQ-2600B User Calibration


First, set the source to 1560 nm.
1. Press the Setup button (F7). The Setup window appears.
2. Click on the Maintenance tab. The following window appears:

Figure 8. User Calibration window

3. Connect the IQ-2600B to a calibrated wavelength meter and enter the measured wavelength value in the Wavelength field.
4. Click on Adjust. The unit will verify if there is a difference between the value you have entered and the current wavelength position.
If a difference is detected, the unit will add an offset to compensate.
5. The difference between the preselected wavelength and measured wavelength must not exceed ± 0.200 nm (± 0.0250 THz).
If the difference between the measured and preselected wavelengths is greater than ± 0.200 nm (e.g. if you enter the wrong value),
a warning message will appear.

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IQS-2600B User Calibration


First, set the source to 1560 nm.
1. From the main screen, click on the Settings tab. The following window appears:

Figure 9. IQS-2600B User Calibration window

2. Click on the User Calibration tab.


3. Connect your IQS-2600B to a calibrated wavelength meter and enter the measured wavelength in the corresponding field.
4. Click on Adjust. Your unit will verify if there is a difference between the value you have entered and its current wavelength position.
If there is a difference, it will add an offset to compensate.

FLS-2600B User Calibration


First, set the source to 1560 nm.
1. Press the Setup button.
2. Turn the selection dial until ADJUST λ is displayed. The preselected default wavelength appears.
3. Press ENTER. The Edit marker will begin flashing at the bottom of the display.
4. Connect your FLS-2600B to a calibrated wavelength meter.
5. Turn the selection dial until you reach the wavelength value displayed on the wavelength meter, and then press ENTER to validate it.
6. Press the Setup button again to exit the Setup menu.

Note: The fine-tune feature is not available in this submenu.

Again, the difference between the preselected wavelength and the measured wavelength must not exceed ± 0.200 nm (± 0.0250 THz).

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A Few Useful Examples


Figures 10 and 11 illustrate some of the benefits of carrying out user-performed calibrations.

Difference between set and measured wavelength (pm)

40

30

20

10 Deviation from measured


wavelength before user
recalibration (pm)

0 Deviation from measured


wavelength after user
recalibration (pm)

-10

-20
1510

1515
1520
1525

1530

1535

1540
1545

1550

1555
1560
1565

1570
1575
1580

1585

1590

1595
1600
1605

1610
Wavelength setting (nm)

Figure 10. Shows difference between set and measured wavelength, before and after user calibration, at 1560 nm.
Difference between set and measured wavelength (pm)

40

30

20
Deviation from measured
wavelength before 1 week scan (pm)
10 Deviation from measured
wavelength after 1 week scan (pm)

Deviation from measured


0 wavelength after 1 week scan and
user calibration (pm)

-10

-20
1510

1515
1520
1525

1530

1535

1540
1545

1550

1555
1560
1565

1570
1575
1580

1585

1590

1595
1600
1605

1610

Wavelength setting (nm)

Figure 11. Shows difference between set and measured wavelength, before and after a week of continuous scanning at maximum
speed: the source is still within a ± 15 pm uncertainty.

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It is not necessary to perform a user calibration every time the source is used since the unit still remains within specifications after a week of
continuous scanning. However, if the instrument is turned off, EXFO recommends that a user-performed calibration be done prior to using it
again. This will reset the source and ensure optimum performance. Furthermore, this feature can help you achieve better wavelength accuracy
whenever you suspect that external conditions may have affected your unit’s calibration.

Conclusion
Wide-range tunable sources are now standard in WDM and DWDM testing. EXFO’s IQ-, IQS- and FLS-2600B tunable lasers rank among
the best on the market today. Their ruggedness and user-friendliness, combined with EXFO’s technological expertise have produced a reliable
high-performance product. In addition, the user calibration feature provides you with everything you need to get the most out of this versatile
test and measurement instrument.

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Appnote072.2AN © 2005 EXFO Electro-Optical Engineering Inc. All rights reserved. Printed in Canada 05/05