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Single-mode fiber and few-mode fiber photonic lanterns performance evaluated for use in a scalable real-time photon counting ground receiver
Author(s): Sarah A. Tedder; Brian E. Vyhnalek; Sergio Leon-Saval; Christopher Betters; Bert Floyd; Jeremy Staffa; Robert Lafon
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Paper Abstract

Photonic lanterns provide an efficient way of coupling light from a single large-core fiber to multiple small-core fibers. This capability is of interest for space to ground communication applications. In these applications, the optical ground receivers require high-efficiency coupling from an atmospherically distorted focus spot to multiple fiber coupled single pixel super-conducting nanowire detectors. This paper will explore the use of photonic lanterns in a real-time ground receiver that is scalable and constructed with commercial parts. The number of small-core fibers (i.e. an array of single or few-mode cores) that make a photonic lantern determines the number of spatial modes that they couple at the larger multimode fiber core end. For instance, lanterns made with n number of single-mode fibers can couple n number of spatial modes. Although the laser transmitted from a spacecraft originates as a Gaussian shape, the atmosphere distorts the beam profile by scrambling the phase and scattering energy into higher-order spatial modes. Therefore, if a ground receiver is sized for a target data rate with n number of detectors, the corresponding lantern made with single-mode fibers will couple n number of spatial modes. Most of the energy of the transmitted beam scattered into spatial modes higher than n will be lost. This paper shows this loss may be reduced by making lanterns with few-mode fibers instead of single-mode fibers, increasing the number of spatial modes that can be coupled and therefore increasing the coupling efficiency to single pixel, single photon detectors. The free space to fiber coupling efficiency of these two types of photonic lanterns are compared over a range of the free-space coupling numerical apertures and mode field diameters. Results indicate the few mode fiber lantern has higher coupling efficiency for telescopes with longer focal lengths under higher turbulent conditions. Also presented is analysis of the jitter added to the system by the lanterns, showing the few-mode fiber photonic lantern adds more jitter than the single-mode fiber lantern, but less than a multimode fiber.

Paper Details

Date Published: 4 March 2019
PDF: 10 pages
Proc. SPIE 10910, Free-Space Laser Communications XXXI, 109100G (4 March 2019); doi: 10.1117/12.2507478
Show Author Affiliations
Sarah A. Tedder, NASA Glenn Research Ctr. (United States)
Brian E. Vyhnalek, NASA Glenn Research Ctr. (United States)
Sergio Leon-Saval, The Univ. of Sydney (Australia)
Christopher Betters, The Univ. of Sydney (Australia)
Bert Floyd, Sierra Lobo, Inc. (United States)
Jeremy Staffa, Univ. of Rochester (United States)
Robert Lafon, NASA Goddard Space Flight Ctr. (United States)

Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 10910:
Free-Space Laser Communications XXXI
Hamid Hemmati; Don M. Boroson, Editor(s)

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