Multicore fibre technology: the road to multimode photonics
J. Bland-Hawthorn, Seong-Sik Min, E. Lindley, S. Leon-Saval, S. Ellis d, J. Lawrence, N. Beyrand, M. Roth, H.-G. Löhmannsröben, S. Veilleux
For the past forty years, optical fibres have found widespread use in ground-based and space-based instruments. In most applications, these fibres are used in conjunction with conventional optics to transport light. But photonics offers a huge range of optical manipulations beyond light transport that were rarely exploited before 2001. The fundamental obstacle to the broader use of photonics is the difficulty of achieving photonic action in a multimode fibre. The first step towards a general solution was the invention of the photonic lantern1 in 2004 and the delivery of high-efficiency devices (< 1 dB loss) five years on2. Multicore fibres (MCF), used in conjunction with lanterns, are now enabling an even bigger leap towards multimode photonics. Until recently, the single-moded cores in MCFs were not sufficiently uniform to achieve telecom (SMF-28) performance. Now that high-quality MCFs have been realized, we turn our attention to printing complex functions (e.g. Bragg gratings for OH suppression) into their N cores. Our first work in this direction used a Mach-Zehnder interferometer (near-field phase mask) but this approach was only adequate for N=7 MCFs as measured by the grating uniformity3. We have now built a Sagnac interferometer that gives a three-fold increase in the depth of field sufficient to print across N ≥ 127 cores. We achieved first light this year with our 500mW Sabre FRED laser. These are sophisticated and complex interferometers. We report on our progress to date and summarize our first-year goals which include multimode OH suppression fibres for the Anglo-Australian Telescope/PRAXIS instrument and the Discovery Channel Telescope/MOHSIS instrument under development at the University of Maryland.