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February 4, 2008


2.5.2. Material and waveguide dispersions

Chromatic dispersion results from two phenomena: variation in the refractive index of the constituent materials of the ber with frequency and variation in the waveguide properties of the
ber with frequency. These are chromatic dispersion as they depend on frequency, or wavelength,
and are described in composite through the mode eigenvalue = n()/c, which depends on
In terms of the mode index, the dispersion parameter can be written
2c d ng
2c d
= 2
D = 2
f d g
f d c

2 dng
2 d
= 2
= 2
f d
f d

= 2 2
+ 2 .
If we recall the ber b parameter,

n n2
n n2
= n1
n1 n2

we can write the modal index as n = n2 + b/n1 . Here, n2 is the cladding index and is material
property, b is a waveguide property, and  is the normalized index, which is a dierential material
property. Now, we can rewrite the total dispersion parameter
D = D M + D W + D
We will assume that the dierential dispersion is small (meaning that the changes in n1 and n2
with frequency are about the same), leaving
DM =

2 dn2g
1 dn2g
c d
f d

n22g d2 (V b) dn2g d(V b)
= 2 V
n2 dV 2
d dV

where n2g is the group index in the ber cladding.

Material dispersion in pulse propagation down optical ber occurs because the refractive index
of fused silica (which is the main constituent of optical ber) varies with frequency. Using a simple
resonance model called the Sellmeier equation, the refractive index can be written
n2 () = 1 +


Bj 2j
2j 2

where j denotes the frequency location of the relevant material resonances and Bj denotes the
strength (called the oscillator strength) of that resonance. For fused silica, these parameters are:
B1 = 0.6961663, B2 = 0.4079426, B3 = 0.8974794, 1 = 0.0684043 m, 2 = 0.1162414 m, and
3 = 9.896161 m. Note that j = 2c/j . With the knowledge of n(), the group index can be
calculated from
ng = n + .

S. Blair

February 4, 2008


The following gure shows the variation of n and ng with wavelength for fused silica.

The material dispersion parameter is written DM = (1/c)(dng /d) and can be easily evaluated.
The slope dng /d = 0 at the zero dispersion wavelength zd = 1.276 m, where DM = 0. For longer
wavelengths, DM is positive, while for short wavelengths, DM is negative. The zero dispersion
wavelength for glass used in optical ber due to dopants (such as germanium).
The contribution from waveguide dispersion can dramatically alter the total dispersion seen
by the pulse. The main eect of DW on the total dispersion D is to shift the zero-dispersion
wavelength zd by 30-40 nm so that the zero dispersion in ber (rather than in bulk fused silica)
occurs at zd 1.31 m, which is one common wavelength range of operation. For the other
common range about 1.55 m, typical D values are 15-18 ps/nmkm.

Since the total dispersion depends on DW through the ber parameters, we have some control
the position of zd . Because the minimum ber loss occurs near 1.55 m, it is very useful to make
this the zero dispersion wavelength as well. These types of bers are called dispersion-shifted
bers and are common in new ber installations. Another type of ber is dispersion-attened,
such that the dispersion is held low over a large wavelength range. Representative refractive index

S. Blair

February 4, 2008


proles for these ber types are also shown in the gure.



2.5.3. Dispersion summary

Due to group-delay dispersion (the lowest-order contribution to chromatic dispersion), the pulse
spread can be written
Tchrom = L 2
Tchrom = LD
where 2 is the group delay dispersion and D is called the dispersion parameter.
We can dene the higher-order dispersion parameters
3 =



where 3 is the third-order dispersion and S is the dispersion slope.

With these parameters, the group-delay dispersion parameters can be approximated
2 () 2 ( o ) + ( o ) 3
D() D(o ) + ( o )S,
where o and o are xed.
At the zero-dispersion point, pulse spread can be written in terms of the higher-order dispersion
Tchrom = L 3 ()2
Tchrom = LS ()2 .
2.5.4. Dispersion compensation
Since the beginning of optical communications systems, over 75 million miles of standard singlemode optical ber (SMF-28) has been installed. The dispersion parameter for this ber is in the

S. Blair

February 4, 2008





range D 17 18 ps/nmkm at 1550 nm wavelength. For these systems, data-carrying capacity

is limited by dispersion, as an upgrade in capacity requires either the use of shorter modulation
or the use of multiple wavelength channels, or both.
In some more recent systems, dispersion-shifted ber (DSF) was used such that a single channel
can operate at high bit rates with very little dispersion. However, when capacity was added using
WDM techniques, another problem came up, that of four-wave mixing. The detrimental eects
of four-wave mixing are maximized near the zero dispersion point, and this became the next
limitation. Current systems use non-zero dispersion-shifted ber (NDSF), where the dispersion
zero is shifted out of the 1550 nm band (i.e. the C-band), leaving a small amount of residual
dispersion, about 2-4 ps/nmkm.
The way to further increase capacity, for both the legacy SMF-28 systems and the newest
NDSF systems is to use a technique called dispersion compensation. This technique relies on a
special type of ber - dispersion compensating ber (DCF) - which allows for the compensation
of pulse broadening in an installed system without replacing the buried ber. DCF is a ber with
a negative dispersion parameter. Its use is illustrated in the following gure:
The pulse broadening due to the rst, installed, ber is given by
Tchrom = D()L.
We therefore need the DCF to provide Tcomp = Tchrom . For the DCF, we need a dispersion
DDCF () = D
Note, that in WDM, we need to compensate dispersion for all wavelength channels. This requires
the compensation of dispersion slope.
DCF is made by modication of the refractive index prole of the ber, and typically has
larger attenuation of 0.4 dB/km. Two dierences are used - a larger core/cladding refractive
index of = 2.5% versus = 0.37% (which occurs through increased Ge doping of the core
and results in greater Rayleigh scattering), and a decreased mode size of 4.7 m versus 10.5 m.
The additional loss of using DCF must be compensated by an optical amplier. The splicing loss
between standard ber and DCF is minimized by using an interim ber.