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Few-mode fiber coupled superconducting nanowire single-photon detectors for photon efficient optical communications
Author(s): Brian E. Vyhnalek; Sarah A. Tedder; Evan J. Katz; Jennifer M. Nappier
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Paper Abstract

The NASA Glenn Research Center's development of a high-photon efficiency real-time optical communications ground receiver has added superconducting nanowire single-photon detectors (SNSPDs) coupled with few-mode fibers (FMF). High data rate space-to-ground optical communication links require enhanced ground receiver sensitivity to reduce spacecraft transmitter constraints, and therefore require highly efficient coupling from fiber to detector. In the presence of atmospheric turbulence the received optical wavefront can be severely distorted introducing higher-order spatial mode components to the received signal. To reduce mode filtering and mismatch loss and the resulting degradations to detector coupling efficiency, we explore the use of few-mode fiber coupling to commercial single-pixel SNSPDs. Graded index 20-μm few-mode fibers allow the commercial single pixel SNSPD's active area to couple with equal efficiency as single mode fibers. Here we determine detector characteristics such as count rate, detection efficiency, dark counts, and jitter, as well as detection efficiencies for higher-order fiber spatial modes. Additionally, we assess the laboratory performance of the detectors in an optical system which emulates future deep space optical communications links.

Paper Details

Date Published: 22 February 2019
PDF: 14 pages
Proc. SPIE 10910, Free-Space Laser Communications XXXI, 109100D (22 February 2019); doi: 10.1117/12.2510958
Show Author Affiliations
Brian E. Vyhnalek, NASA Glenn Research Ctr. (United States)
Sarah A. Tedder, NASA Glenn Research Ctr. (United States)
Evan J. Katz, NASA Glenn Research Ctr. (United States)
Jennifer M. Nappier, NASA Glenn Research 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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