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EEE 529: Optical Sources and


Danson Njue

Optical Transmitter
The starting point of the optical communication system is the optical
transmitter where the electrical signal convert to the optical signal by
modulating the optical source. This is done using an electronic circuit
known as the driving circuit.
The most common devices used as the light source in optical
transmitters are the light emitting diode (LED) and the laser diode (LD)
These devices are mounted in a package that enables an optical fiber to
be placed in very close proximity to the light emitting region in order to
couple as much light as possible into the fiber.
Depending on the nature of the modulating signal, the resulting
modulated light may be turned on-and-off or may be linearly varied in
intensity between two predetermined levels

Optical sources
The basic requirement for light sources in optical communication
depends on the intended application (long-haul, short-haul). The main
features of the light source are; Power: Source power must be sufficiently high so that the received
signal is detectable
Speed: The source must be suitable for modulation at the desired
Line-width: The source must have a narrow spectral line width to
minimize the effects of chromatic dispersion in the fibre
Noise: The source must be free of random fluctuations
Others include ruggedness, insensitivity to environmental
conditions, reliability, low cost and long lifetime

Optical sources
Wideband continuous
spectra sources
(Incandescent Lamps)
Monochromatic incoherent
sources (Light Emitting
Diodes - LED)
Monochromatic coherent
sources (Light Amplification
by Stimulated Emission of
Radiation - LASER)
The most commonly used sources are LED and Lasers

Light Emitting Diodes (LED)

Produced through spontaneous emission of light
LEDs are fabricated in two main basic structures;
Surface emitting
Edge emitting

Edge Emitter
More complex and expensive device but offers high output power
levels and high speed performance
The output power is high because the emitting spot is very small,
typically 30-50 m, allowing good coupling efficiency to similarly
sized optical fibers.

LED Structures
Surface Emitter
Comparatively simple structure, relatively inexpensive, offer lowto-moderate output power levels, and are capable of low-tomoderate operating speeds.
Optical output power is as high or higher than the edge-emitting
LED, since the emitting area is large, causing poor coupling
efficiency to the optical fiber.
Surface-emitting LEDs are almost perfect Lambertian emitters.
This means that they emit light in all directions.
*Check on Lambert cosine law
The main disadvantage with surface emitting is their relatively
broader linewidth hence high dispersion

Characteristics of LEDs
There are five major characteristics of LED
Peak wavelength
Spectral Width
Emission pattern

Characteristics of LEDs
Peak wavelength :The wavelength at which the source
emits the most power. It should be matched to the
wavelengths that are transmitted with the least
attenuation through optical fiber. The most common peak
wavelength are 780, 850, and 1310 nm.
Spectral width: Ideally, all the light emitted from an LED
would be at the peak wavelength, but in practice the light
is emitted in a range of wavelengths centered at the peak
wavelength. This range is called the spectral width of the

Characteristics of LEDs
Emission Pattern: The pattern of emitted light affects the
amount of light that can be coupled into the optical fiber.
The size of the emitting region should be similar to the
diameter of the fiber core.
Power: Usually achieved by coupling as much of a sources
power into the fiber as possible. The key requirement is
that the output power of the source be strong enough to
provide sufficient power to the detector at the receiving
end, considering fiber attenuation, coupling losses and
other system constraints. In general, LEDs are less powerful
than lasers.

Characteristics of LEDs
Speed: A source should turn on and off fast enough to
meet the bandwidth limits of the system. The speed is
given according to a sources Rise or fall time, the time
required to go from 10% to 90% of peak power. LEDs have
slower rise and fall times than lasers.
Linearity: Linearity represents the degree to which the
optical output is directly proportional to the electrical
current input. Most light sources give little or no attention
to linearity, making them usable only for digital
applications. Analog applications require close attention to
linearity. Nonlinearity in LEDs causes harmonic distortion in
the analog signal that is transmitted over an analog fiber
optic link.

LED materials
There are many material in
construct LED, for example
GaAlAs (gallium aluminum
arsenide) for short-wavelength
Long-wavelength devices
generally incorporate InGaAsP
(indium gallium arsenide
These material gives different
energy gap as shown in table
Different material also will gives
different wavelength for different


Energy Gap Eg (eV)























Laser Diode (LD)

Light produced through Stimulated Emission
Lasers emits coherent light
Laser diode light is monochromatic and the
spectral/line width of the light is small.
Since the laser diode is monochromatic, the
light is easily directed into the fiber.

Characteristic of laser diode

Monochromatic : The spectral width of the radiated
light is very narrow. The line width of a laser diode
can be in tenth or hundred of nanometer
Well directed: A laser diode radiates narrow , well
directed beam that can be easily launched into
optical fiber
Highly intense and power efficient: A laser diode can
radiate hundreds of milliwatts of output power. LD
making the current to light conversion 10 times
more efficient than it is in the best LEDs.
Coherent: Light radiates by a laser diode is coherent;
where all oscillation are in phase.

Characteristic of laser diode

Linearity: Laser diode is linear in terms of light output versus
electrical current input, but unlike LEDs, they are not stable over
wide operating temperature ranges and require more elaborate
circuitry to achieve acceptable stability
Emission Pattern: The pattern of emitted light affects the
amount of light that can be coupled into the optical fiber. The
size of the emitting region should be similar to the diameter of
the fiber core.

Fig. Laser emission pattern and fiber core

Laser Diode Material

The material inside laser diode will present the
wavelength of laser diode
Different material will present different
Different material also provide different energy
Material in laser diode will provide how long the
transmitter can support and the wavelength
mode and type

Laser Diode Material

InGaAs: Indium Gallium Arsenide. Generally used to make
high-performance long-wavelength detectors
InGaAsP: Indium Gallium Arsenide Phosphide. Generally
used for long-wavelength light emitters
Injection Laser Diode (ILD): A laser employing a forwardbiased semiconductor junction as the active medium.
Stimulated emission of coherent light occurs at a PIN
junction where electrons and holes are driven into the

LEDs vs Lasers
LEDs are generally more reliable than lasers, but both
sources will degrade over time.
This degradation can be caused by heat generated by the
source and uneven current densities. LEDs are easier to use
than lasers.
The light radiate from LED is incoherent light where there
are no optical cavity.
The output radiation has a broad spectral width, since the
emitted photon energies ranges over the range the energy
Compared to the LED, laser diode is highly intense and
power efficient. LED need 150mA of current to achieve
power radiate at 1mW but laser diode only need 10mA
current to achieve same power level.

Optical Detectors
A fiber optic receiver is an
electro-optic device that
accepts optical signals from an
optical fiber and converts them
into electrical signals.
An optical receiver consists of :
-Optical detector
-Low-noise amplifier
-Other circuitry.
Optical detectors convert
optical power to electrical
current at the receiver

Performance criteria of optical detectors

Sensitivity has to be matched to the emission spectra of
the optical transmitter
Linearity (Linear relationship between the intensity and
the electrical signal)
High quantum efficiency / high spectral sensitivity
Fast response time
Stability of performance (temperature sensitivity)
Reliability and Robustness
Low Noise
Lost Cost

Classification of optical detectors

PIN diodes
Avalanche photodiodes
Schottky diodes

Photo conductors
Photo transistors

Principle of optical detection

The conversion of an optical into an
electrical signal requires the absorption of
the incident light.
The absorption leads to an excitation of an
electron from the valence to the conduction
band. The excitation leaves holes in the
valence band.
As such, the excitation leads to photogeneration of electron-hole pairs, because
the absorption always leads to the
generation of a hole and an electron.
If now a photon gets absorbed in the
material the electron-hole pairs have to be
separated by an electric field. The energy of
the photon has to be sufficiently high to
excite an electron from the valence to the
conduction band.

The absorption of a photon produces an electron hole-pair and thus a
photocurrent. The absorption of the photons depends on the absorption
coefficient in the medium, which depends on wavelength of the photon
The photocurrent caused by the absorption of photons is given by;

where Po is the optical power, is the wavelength of the incident light, h is

the Planck constant, and e is the elementary charge.
The term R accounts for the reflection at the interface of the detector and air,
(1-R) is the light absorbed in the detector and the exponential term considers
the absorption in the medium.
d is the thickness of the absorber.

Quantum efficiency of optical detectors

The quantum efficiency is defined by:

Quantum efficiency is determined by the absorption

coefficient. The quantum efficiency is generally below unity,
but can be for its maximum very close to unity.

Spectral Responsivity
Describe the spectral sensitivity of the devices. The spectral
responsivity is given by:

where Iph is the photocurrent and Po is the incident optical

power. The unit of the spectral responsivity is A/W.
The spectral sensitivity can also be derived from the quantum
efficiency by:

Assignment 1
Write short notes on the different types of
photo detectors, clearly outlining the principle
of operation, and advantages and