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Message ID: 1187     Entry time: Fri Dec 19 21:37:12 2014
Author: Zach 
Type: Laser 
Category: SiFi 
Subject: Amplitude modulator characterization 

Tonight, I did some characterization of the Photline fiber-coupled amplitude modulators we will use for our experiment (MXAN-LN-10 --- datasheet attached nope google it yourself). These are electro-optic devices that work by using an internal mach-zehnder to convert phase modulation into amplitude modulation.

The test setup for all measurements was the same. I used the exact configuration that I have been using for the beat (see CRYO:1182), but I simply blocked one laser, so that only one beam was hitting the 1811 PD. The amplitude modulators were inserted (one at a time) between the East laser and its output coupler.



Insertion loss

The first thing I did was to investigate the insertion loss of the modulators. We chose the low-loss option, which just meant that the company hand-selected modulators with loss of < 3dB (= 50% power transmission).

I didn't go crazy with precision here, because systematics with fiber coupling can easily prevent a measurement to better than a few percent (an example of this: I installed a 1-meter patch fiber between the laser and the output coupler, instead of the modulator, and I actually saw a slight increase in output power vs. the case with the laser going straight to the output coupler… go figure).

In both cases, I measured very nearly 50% reduction in power (at the top of the MZ fringe---see below) vs. the case with no modulator. So, these things have a loss very close to 3 dB, as advertised. An important thing to point out is that we will need to bias these away from maximum transmission to get a linear PM -> AM coupling, so the real power reduction in our setup will be more than 50%.


DC response

These modulators have an SMA-connectorized "RF" input, as well as two bare pins connected to a separate set of "DC" electrodes (they also have two more pins connected to the cathode and anode of an internal PD, presumably at the other MZ output port, which is kind of cool). As far as I can tell, the RF input is also DC coupled, only it is 50-ohm terminated.

I did a DC sweep of both electrodes from 0-10 V while measuring the output power:


(The RF applied voltage range is lower due to sagging from the 50-ohm load).

Fitting these curves, I determined the following Vpis:

  • S/N 03
    • DC: 6.46 V
    • RF: 4.19 V
  • S/N 17
    • DC: 6.39 V
    • RF: 4.91 V

These are consistent with the numbers listed on the datasheet.


Transfer functions

Next I measured the actuation transfer functions ([RIN/V]) from 1 Hz to 100 MHz, driving the RF input while applying a mid-fringe bias to the DC input, and using

  • Agilent 35670A FFT analyzer and the 1811 DC output for 1 Hz - 50 kHz, and
  • Agilent 4395A RF analyzer and the 1811 AC output for 500 kHz - 100 MHz

Note the dead zone from 50-500 kHz---this was by accident, as I forgot to check the low-frequency resolution of the RF measurement. I will redo this sometime.

Here are the results:



  • The jump from 50 kHz - 500 kHz is from the measurement dead zone and carries no information
  • The lag beginning around 10 kHz is from the stated ~50 kHz bandwidth of the DC output of the 1811. The AC output has a low end at ~25 kHz, so there isn't really a good way to make a measurement in this region with that detector. We could use a DC-coupled version to make a continuous spectrum.
  • The slow rollup at low frequencies is well-sampled and repeatable. I'm not sure what causes it, but it appears to be real. In any case, it's pretty small.
  • The delay at high frequencies is consistent with the optical path length from the modulator to the PD. I calibrated the cables' transfer function out, and what is left is this delay which has a 4.13-m free-space equivalent. There is ~64 cm of free-space travel on the table, plus well over a meter from the output fiber of the modulator.

The response very flat, and roughly what is expected from the DC sweep:

(1/P0) * dP/dV|mid-fringe = pi/Vpi ~ 0.5 ( = -6 dB).

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