Last night (Tuesday), I finished setting up and aligning most of the input optics for the OMC characterization setup. See the diagram below, but the setup consists of:
Today, we placed some lenses into the setup, in two places:
We (Koji, Lisa, and myself) had significant trouble getting more than ~0.1% coupling through the fiber, and after a while we decided to go to the 40m to get the red-light fiber illuminator to help with the alignment.
Using the illuminator, we realigned the input to the coupler and eventually got much better---but still bad---coupling of ~1.2% (0.12 mW out / 10 mW in). Due to the multi-mode nature of the illuminator beam, the output cannot be used to judge the collimation of the IR beam; it can only be used to verify the alignment of the beam.
With 0.12 mW emerging from the other end of the fiber, we could see the output quite clearly on a card (see photo below). This can tell us about the required input mode. From the looks of it, our beam is actually focused too strongly. We should probably replace the 75mm lens again with a slightly longer one.
Lisa and I concurred that it felt like we had converged to the optimum alignment and polarization, which would mean that the lack of coupling is all from mode mismatch. Since the input mode is well collimated, it seems unlikely that we could be off enough to only get ~1% coupling. One possibility is that the collimator is not well attached to the fiber itself. Since the Rayleigh range within it is very small, any looseness here can be critical.
I think there are several people around here who have worked pretty extensively with fibers. So, I propose that we ask them to take a look at what we have done and see if we're doing something totally wrong. There is no reason to reinvent the wheel.