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Introduction to FibreCouplers
The aim of this chapter is to provide an overview of fibre coupler technology. The
principles of how fibre couplers exchange power between the two ports are
presented and different methods of fabrication are compared. The information
provided in this chapter introduces the work on the characterisation of fibre couplers
(Chapter 9) and is relevant to the optimisation of all-fibre add-drop multiplexers
based on the inscription of gratings in the coupler waist (Chapter 8).

They can be used to split the optical power of an optical channel (of certain wavelength) between the output ports [57].and integrated-optic couplers are extremely important components in a number of photonics applications. which results in a gradual power transfer between modes supported by the two waveguides. 4. corresponding to different wavelengths (wavelength-divisionmultiplexing (WDM) splitters/combiners) [58]. have been combined with reflective Bragg gratings written in their waist. Lately fibre. The mechanism through which light is exchanged between the two fibres is dependent upon the fabrication method.4 . to provide selective adding and dropping of different channels in WDM systems [41. the otherwise insensitive and well confined core modes interact by exchanging power between each fibre core due to the overlap of the modes in the common cladding.and integrated-optic couplers.Introduction to Fibre-Couplers 4.2 Theoretical Coupler Description A fibre coupler is a four-port device consisting of two fibres that have been fused together. as a result of the beating between eigenmodes of the composite two-waveguide structure along the length of the composite coupler waist [56]. this is. or polished over a small interaction region. Another application is to combine or split the power of different channels.1 33 Coupler Technology Fibre. The most common use of fibre. When the fibres are etched or polished and positioned in close proximity. This power transfer and cross-coupling at the coupler output ports can be viewed also. They are generally four-port devices and their operation relies on the distributed coupling between two individual waveguides in close proximity.and integrated-optic couplers is as a power splitter. The strength of the coupling between the two modes is described . etched. 42]. the fibre-optic equivalent of a free space optic beam-splitter.

LT2) and the coupler waist (LW).Introduction to Fibre-Couplers by an overlap integral of the fields associated with each of the individual guides.1). For single port excitation. . Ao (0) = 1 Ae (0) = 1 2 2 (4. Consider the 2x2 coupler shown schematically in Figure 4. Ae(0)=Ao(0)=1/ 2 . The two eigenmodes propagate adiabatically along the entire coupling region with propagation constants βe(z) and βo(z) respectively.1 . When light is launched into port 1. the normalised field amplitudes of the even (Ae) and odd (Ao) eigenmodes at the coupler input (z=0) can be approximated by [56]: A (0) + A2 (0) A (0) − A2 (0) .1) where A1(0) and A2(0) are the normalised amplitudes of the fields launched into the two input ports 1 and 2. respectively. If the taper is adiabatic only the two lowest-order eigenmodes of this structure will be excited and the power exchange is due to the beating between these two eigenmodes. In the work presented here only fused fibre couplers are discussed. Fused couplers are obtained by fusing together and stretching two parallel uncoated fibres. As the fibres are stretched the core sizes decrease until the modes (at the wavelength of interest) are no longer guided by the core but by the composite cladding-air structure. The beating between these two modes then provides the coupling of power along the coupler. A1(0)=1 and A2(0)=0 and. light launched into one of the input ports of a 2x2 coupler excites equally the two lowest-order (even and odd) eigenmodes along the coupling region. Figure 4.34 4 .1.Four-port coupler schematic showing the coupling region (LC). through Equation (4. which is comprised of two taper regions (LT1. Therefore.

Introduction to Fibre-Couplers ∆φeo 0 π/2 π 3π/2 2π Even + + + Odd P1 P2 P1 P2 Figure 4.35 4 . can be approximated by [56]: .2 . The propagating total electric field at any point along the coupler is described by: z Et ( z ) = Ee ( z ) + Eo ( z ) = Ae ( z )e − i β e (ζ ) dζ 0 z + Ao ( z )e −i β o (ζ ) dζ 0 (4. This results in spatial beating along the coupler waist and power redistribution between the two individual waveguides comprising the optical coupler.2) During adiabatic propagation. the even and odd eigenmodes retain their amplitude (Ae(z)=Ae(0) and Ao(z)=Ao(0)) and change only their relative phase. The peak field amplitudes for each individual waveguide. along the coupling region.Schematic of even and odd eigenmode beating and total power evolution along a 2x2 full-cycle (∆φeo=2π) coupler.

At the points along the coupler.2. the total power is equally split between the two waveguides (P1=P2).36 4 . at the points where φ is multiple of π/2. the total power is concentrated predominantly around waveguide#1 (P1=1 and P2=0). respectively.3) 1 z −i [ β e (ζ ) + β o (ζ ) ]dζ E ( z ) − Eo ( z ) 1 2 = − i sin φ ( z ) e 0 E2 ( z) = e 2 2 where z z 0 0 φ ( z ) = φ eo ( z ) = ∆β eo (ζ )dζ = [β e (ζ ) − β o (ζ )]dζ is the relative accumulated phase difference between the even and odd eigenmodes. where φ is multiple of π. The coupling coefficient k(z) describing the strength of the interaction between the eigenmodes and is given by: k ( z) = β e ( z) − βo ( z) 2 (4.Introduction to Fibre-Couplers 1 z −i [β e (ζ ) + β o (ζ ) ]dζ E ( z ) + Eo ( z ) 1 2 = cos φ ( z ) e 0 E1 ( z ) = e 2 2 (4. βe and βo are the propagation constants of the even and odd eigenmodes. the total power is concentrated predominantly around waveguide#2 (P1=0 and P2=1). Finally. namely P1 ( z ) = cos 2 1 φ ( z) 2 P2 ( z ) = sin 1 φ ( z) 2 2 (4. where φ is zero or a multiple of 2π.4) At the points along the coupler. The corresponding normalised peak power carried by the individual waveguides is given by P1(2)=|E1(2)|2.5) . The even/odd eigenmode beating and total power evolution along a full-cycle coupler (φ=2π) is shown schematically in Figure 4. on the other hand.

to be again in phase: LB = 4.Introduction to Fibre-Couplers The coupler beat length LB is defined as the minimum interaction length the two eigenmodes. must travel in order to interfere constructively i.6) Fabrication of Fused Fibre Couplers 4.e. initially in phase.3 2π βe − βo (4. Figure 4.3.. The fibres are pulled by two computer .3 shows the experimental configuration of such a rig for fabricating fibre tapers or couplers.1 Flame-Brush Technique The flame-brush technique for the fabrication of fibre couplers is based on the scanning of a point-like flame while pulling the fibres [59]. Two fibres are clamped parallel to each other and the flame is scanned over a given interaction region.3. Figure 4.3 – Flame brush technique experimental setup The couplers and tapers fabricated during this work where made using a configuration similar to that of Figure 4.37 4 .

The pulling process was halted when Port 3 reached its minimum. The flame gas consists of a mixture of isobutene and oxygen. The spectral characteristics of the fabricated couplers are determined by launching a white light source into one of the ports of the coupler whilst measuring . the power at port 3 drops to 0V while the power in port 4 increases to around 7V.u.4 shows the power at both the output ports (Port 3 and Port 4) during the pulling process for a half-cycle coupler fabricated using this technique. producing this way a half-cycle coupler. During the pulling of the fibres the output power is monitored and the process halted at the desired fibre radius (in the case of taper fabrication) or extinction ratio (in the case of coupler fabrication).Introduction to Fibre-Couplers controlled Aerotech stages. Coupled power (a.38 4 . Both cleaning and alignment of the fibres is crucial for fabricating uniform tapers or couplers with low insertion losses.4 – Power evolution of a coupler fabricated using the flame-brush technique at λ=1. corresponding to the monomode regime [60]. The flame is scanned using a third Aerotech stage.) 8 100% coupler 6 Port 3 4 2 Port 4 50% splitter 0 46 51 56 61 66 Coupler Elongation (mm) 71 Figure 4.55µm during pulling process. Air draughts or gas pressure variations can severely affect the quality of the devices. Coupler elongation of 46mm represents the point at which coupling of light between the waveguides starts to occur. As illustrated. Figure 4. due to variations in the flame temperature and consequent local non-uniformities along the tapers/couplers.

1 1.55µm.4 1. as illustrated in Figure 4.5.39 4 . The pulling process was halted so that the full-cycle resonance peak was at λ=1. Power (dBm) -50 Port 3 -60 -70 Port 4 -80 -90 1 1. .175µm is the half-cycle resonance corresponding to a total phase displacement of φ(L)=π.5 – Spectral response of a 20mm long full-cycle coupler fabricated using the flame brush technique. In fact. throughout this work very good quality tapers and couplers were obtained. Disadvantages of this fabrication method are.3 1. and the flame size.5 Wavelength (µ µ m) 1.5 illustrates the spectral characteristics of a 20mm long full-cycle coupler fabricated using this technique.2 1. For example. Figure 4. It is observed that the extinction ratio was better than 30dB and the meausurement was noise-limited due to insufficient input power. that may not be approximated to a point like source. the possible contamination of the tapers/couplers by the combustion by-products. The resonance at λ=1. the quality of the couplers produced with the rig.6 1.7 Figure 4. Notwithstanding. provided confidence in the uniformity of the tapers and stability of the flame during the fabrication process. the variations of the burner temperature. typical insertion losses of the fabricated tapers were only 0.Introduction to Fibre-Couplers the output ports with an Optical Spectrum Analyser (OSA).1dB. using a standard telecommunications single mode fibre.

with two pulling stages that stretch the fibre at a desired speed whilst the CO2 laser radiation is scanned across the fibres by a rotating mirror. [61] reported the development of a fused-fibre coupler and fibre taper rig that uses a scanning. focused. the absorption coefficient (which varies with temperature and wavelength). This setup provides a better control of the shape of the taper/coupler tapered region due to the smaller hot spot produced by the focused CO2 laser when compared to the flame-brush technique. The beam is focused using a ZnSe lens with a 30mm focal length giving a spot size of 820µm. The setup is similar to that of the flame-brush technique. the fibre-cooling rate . the main disadvantage of this technique is that the temperature of the heat source varies during the pulling of the fibre. An experimental setup used to fabricate fibre-couplers using a CO2 laser is illustrated in Figure 4.Introduction to Fibre-Couplers 40 4.3. However.4 . It also allows greater control in producing non-uniform tapers or couplers due to the possibility of rapid positioning of the laser spot and fast switching of the laser beam power with a shutter. Heating of optical fibres using a laser source depends on many parameters such as. instead of the gas burner. CO2 laser beam as the heat source. Figure 4. the laser power.6 – Experimental setup of the fabrication of fibre tapers/couplers using the radiation of a focused CO2 laser. al.2 CO2 Laser Recently Dimmick et.6.

4. [62]. in chapter 5 an AO tunable filter is discussed. Also in fibre couplers. for generating a supercontinuum light spectrum.4 . and the temperature uniformity along the length of waist region. the transition region for both fibre couplers and tapers should obey the adiabatic criterion [63]. .3 Heating Oven Another technique used in industry for fabricating fibre couplers and tapers relies on heating the whole uniform section using an oven or resistive electrical heater while pulling the fibres. Birks et al.3. In contrast. Due to the long heat zone this technique has no control over the shape of the tapered region although the sensitivity to environmental factors is reduced.3. the accurate control of the tapered region is extremely important for the fabrication of non-uniform couplers that can be used as an add-drop multiplexer when a grating is inscribed in the waist (chapter 8). and the laser spot size. For example. In general. the presence or not of the fibre has little or no effect on the temperature of the heat source due to the mechanism of heat generation. The quality of the tapers/couplers is essentially dependent on the oven design. 4. in order to minimise insertion losses. which relies on the accurate control of the fibre-taper shape and length. when heating with a flame burner. using the flame-brush technique.4 Shape of the Tapered Region Accurate control of the tapered region shape of both fibre couplers and fibre tapers can be crucial for the performance of devices using these components. To overcome this problem the laser power has to be adjusted constantly in order to maintain a constant temperature during the fibre pulling.Introduction to Fibre-Couplers 41 (which depends on the fibre radius and temperature). produced a long uniform taper waist (90mm) with short transition regions (35mm) and very small waist diameters (~2µm).

b) Initial fibre before pulling.. Figure 4.4 . The size of the hot-zone L(t) may vary with time but is subject to the constraints L≥0 and dL/dx≤1. This second constraint ensures that the hot-zone does not overtake the pulled transitions.7b) shows the equivalent untapered fibre where the initial hot spot length (at t=0) is L0 and x is the total pulling extension at a given time. and r(z) the radius of the taper transition at a given position z. Comparing the tapered with the untapered fibre it may be observed that points A and B are elongated by x.7a). a) At a time t during the pulling. A tapered fibre. The length of the uniform taper waist lw(t) is equal to the length of the hot-zone L(t) at that time. at any given time (or elongation) of the pulling process. Assuming that the localised heating of the fibre makes the glass soft enough to be stretched whilst not being so soft that it falls under its own weight. the shape of the tapers can be calculated without having to recur to fluid mechanics beyond the principle of conservation of mass. the waist length is constant lw(x)=L0 and the taper transition is equal to half of the extension z=x/2. the pulling speed is constant. . can be characterised by the parameters shown in figure 4. ro is the initial fibre radius corresponding to a transition length. [64].Introduction to Fibre-Couplers 42 The shape of fibre tapers/couplers produced by using scanning point-like heating sources has been extensively studied by Birks el al. In the particular case where the hot-zone is constant during the pulling.Schematic representation of a fibre taper structure. z0.7 .e. The time change is proportional to the extension or elongation of the taper i. Figure 4.

In order to minimize losses between the fundamental and the nearest cladding modes. the following expression can easily be derived: drw r =− w dx 2L (4. with the total taper length AB at any given time: 2 z + L = x + L0 (4.7) is demonstrated as well.43 4 .9). In this case L(z)=L0 and z=x/2.Introduction to Fibre-Couplers From the conservation of mass principle.9) is sufficient to describe the profiles of the tapered regions. the taper angle |dr/dz| has to obey the adiabatic criterion [63].9) The taper profile is calculated by substituting x=2z in (4. resulting in the wellknown exponential decay profile. All the taper and coupler devices discussed in this thesis were fabricated using a constant hot-zone.7) gives the waist shape for a total fibre extension x. x rw ( x ) = r0 e −1 / 2 0 dx ' L( x ' ) = r0 e (− x 2 L0 ) (4.7) Secondly.8) The particular case where the hot-zone remains constant during the fibre extension has been analysed by [64-66]. the extension x can be related to the taper transition length z by comparing the initial length AB at t=0. Further examples of interest are discussed in [64] where equation (4.10) . thus expression (4. dr r (β 1 (z ) − β 2 (z )) ≤ dz 2π (4. Integrating (4.

3. and r is the local core radius.8 – Measured power evolution of a 30mm long full-cycle coupler at a λ=1. .44 4 . . . . . . . 4. Experimentally it was observed that intrinsic loss of the fabricated couplers and tapers using the flame-brush technique were very low and justify the use of the above parameters describing smooth adiabatic transitions. .Introduction to Fibre-Couplers Where β1(z) and β2(z) are respectively the local propagation constants of the fundamental mode and the closest cladding modes. . xN Port 4 ∆x 0 x x 0 1 47 x2 x3 52 57 62 67 Coupler Elongation (mm) 72 77 Figure 4. . play a role in the way the power evolves along the coupler. . . xm . . . . For a full-cycle coupler with a constant hot zone of L0=30mm fabricated with standard telecommunications single mode fibre.5 Effect of the tapered transition on the coupler power evolution The long transition regions in couplers fabricated using the flame-brush technique with constant hot zone. The power evolution is only plotted from an extension of x=47mm (from x=0 to x=47 there was no coupling) in order to emphasise the coupling process. . 1 50% splitter . .8.55µm is launched in port 1 and monitored at port 3 and port 4 during the pulling process. Light from a DFB-LD at a wavelength of 1.55µm during the pulling process. . . . the evolution of the power at the output ports is illustrated in Figure 4. 5 2π coupler Measured output (V) π coupler 4 Port 3 3 2 . . .

. Using this general recursive expression and the coupler power evolution Port 3 (blue line in Figure 4. Using the information plotted in Figure 4.5mm when all the light is in Port 4 and the pulling process was halted after one full-cycle. x. Now the phase displacement between the even and odd eigenmodes corresponding to the coupled power P1(x0) at extension x0 is given by: ∆β ( x0 ) = cos −1 [P1 ( x 0 )] L0 (4. ∆β(z)=∆β(x)/2. when all light was coupled back to Port 3. all the interaction is due to the waist section with length L0. The coupling coefficient.13) The reader is reminded that z=x/2 and therefore. can be evaluated for that extension (or equivalently for that waist radius) assuming that the hot-zone section is uniform and constant during the fabrication process.12) finally at the mth section. ∆β ( x1 ) = cos −1 [P1 ( x1 )] L0 − ∆β ( x1 ) ∆x L0 . After a given extension. the half-cycle point is reached at around x=73. k(x). the coupling strength (solid line) was calculated and plotted in Figure 4.8 and the fact that dL/dx=0 (constant hot-zone pulling). an iterative method to extract the coupling strength profile due to the tapered transition region can be developed. where coupling starts to occur.e. by solving equation (4. i. it yields.Introduction to Fibre-Couplers 45 Light starts to be coupled between the two fibres for a coupler extension around x=51mm.11) and the value of ∆β(x1) at the next extension x1=x0+∆x can be calculated iteratively using.4 . (4.4) in order to determine φ(x)=∆β(x)L0=2k(x)L0.8). ∆β ( xm ) = cos −1 [P1 ( x m )] L0 − ∆x m−1 ∆β ( x n ) L0 n =0 (4.9 this is . xm=x0+m∆x.

5mm.5 45 52. is the same in both couplers at λ=1. However. By comparing the power coupling in the transition regions with that in the uniform region of the fabricated coupler.1% of the total phase displacement along the coupler is due to the tapered transition regions and 77. when optimising add-drop multiplexers based on full-cycle couplers with gratings inscribed in the waist.5 0 0 7. the coupler transition region has to be taken into account.5 15 22. The ideal coupler has a higher coupling strength along the uniform waist than the fabricated coupler.457.5)/r0=exp(-z/L0)≈0. The origin of the graph in Figure 4.5 1 k(z) (x10 4 -1 m ) Ideal coupler Real coupler 0. by placing them between the exact points along the coupler where the power is equally split between the fibres. Therefore.5 60 Coupler Position (mm) Figure 4. At this position the normalised coupler radius can be calculated using (4.Introduction to Fibre-Couplers compared to the ideal coupler (dashed line) without a tapered transition region.9% due to the uniform waist. although the total coupler phase displacement φ(L) corresponding to the integration of the coupling strength along the whole length. it is realised that 22.5 30 37.46 4 . . the non-destructive coupler characterisation method presented in Chapter 9 overcomes this problem. 1.9 – Comparison of the coupling strengths of an ideal (dashed line) and fabricated (solid line) 30mm long full-cycle coupler.55µm.9 corresponds to a coupler extension of x=47mm and therefore a transition length of z=23.9) yielding r(z=23.

Identification of these coupler positions is critical for the optimisation of add-drop multiplexers based on gratings inscribed in the coupler waist and will be discussed in Chapter 8.47 4 .13). It is observed that the fabricated coupler is longer and the coupling smoother corresponding to the transition regions.Introduction to Fibre-Couplers The effect of the tapered transition region on the power evolution along the coupler length is illustrated directly in Figure 4.5 45 52. 1 Normalised Power P1(z) 0. In order to characterise the coupler and determine its 50-50% points a novel non-destructive characterisation technique for fibre couplers was developed and is discussed in Chapter 9. The coupler positions where the power is equally distributed in both the waveguides (50-50% points) are shifted towards the tapered regions. Both the output coupler ports (Port 3 and Port 4) are shown. in determining the coupling strength and hence the 50-50% points of the coupler. .10 – Power evolution along the length of an ideal uniform (dashed line) and fabricated (solid line) 30mm long full-cycle coupler.5 60 Coupler Position (mm) Figure 4.5 P2(z) 0 0 7. The dashed line refers to the ideal coupler and the solid line to the fabricated coupler.5 15 22. The accuracy of expression (4.10. depends on the uniformity of the hot-zone length and the adiabatic evolution of the tapered transition region during the pulling process.5 30 37.

the degree of fusion before pulling the fibres defines the cross sectional shape of the coupler.4 . [67. 72] used a Field Correction Method to accurately calculate the coupler eigenmodes. different approximations for calculating these modes have been addressed in the literature. the cross-section has approximately an elliptical shape with varying eccentricity [67]. [68] the fibres were not fused and the cores were neglected. al. the coupler has a characteristic dumbbell shape and for intermediate degrees of fusion. In order to optimise these devices accurate control of the fabrication and suitable methods of characterisation for the couplers are required. The theoretical description of the coupler in terms of the coupler eigenmodes. In Bures et. monitor the network. for different coupler cross-sections (rectangular. 71] gives analytical expressions for the two lowest order modes. also known as supermodes. In chapter 9 a nondestructive method for characterising fibre-couplers is described.Introduction to Fibre-Couplers 48 4. while [73-75] use the rigorous surface integral equation method determine the coupler characteristics.3. In the case of very weak fusion. Recently add-drop multiplexer configurations relying on the inscription of Bragg gratings in the coupler waist have been investigated [41. Further work. and [70. their advantages and . LP01 and LP11.4 Summary Fibre couplers are important components used in WDM systems to route and split signals. 42]. [69] approximated the coupler cross section using different a rectangular cross section. is related to the coupler cross-section. The higher the degree of fusion the closer the cross section of the fabricated coupler is to a cylinder. circular) also neglecting the fibre cores. or combine signal and pump wavelengths for feeding optical amplifiers. A review of fibre-coupler fabrication technologies. In conclusion this chapter gave an introduction to coupler technologies and described how light is transferred between the two waveguides along the coupler length. elliptical.6 Coupler cross section When fabricating couplers using the flame-brush technique. 4.

the influence of the transition region has to be taken into account. Finally the influence of the fibre couplers tapered transition region on the power evolution along the coupler length was described.4 . .Introduction to Fibre-Couplers 49 drawbacks for each was discussed. It will be shown (in chapter 8) that in order to optimise an add-drop multiplexer.