Graphene-Coupled Terahertz Semiconductor Lasers for Enhanced Passive Frequency Comb Operation.
ABSTRACT: Optical frequency combs, consisting of well-controlled equidistant frequency lines, have been widely used in precision spectroscopy and metrology. Terahertz combs have been realized in quantum cascade lasers (QCLs) by employing either an active mode-locking or phase seeding technique, or a dispersion compensator mirror. However, it remains a challenge to achieve the passive comb formation in terahertz semiconductor lasers due to the insufficient nonlinearities of conventional saturable absorbers. Here, a passive terahertz frequency comb is demonstrated by coupling a multilayer graphene sample into a QCL compound cavity. The terahertz modes are self-stabilized with intermode beat note linewidths down to a record of 700 Hz and the comb operation of graphene-coupled QCLs is validated by on-chip dual-comb measurements. Furthermore, the optical pulse emitted from the graphene-coupled QCL is directly measured employing a terahertz pump-probe technique. The enhanced passive frequency comb operation is attributed to the saturable absorption behavior of the graphene-integrated saturable absorber mirror, as well as the dispersion compensation introduced by the graphene sample. The results provide a conceptually different graphene-based approach for passive comb formation in terahertz QCLs, opening up intriguing opportunities for fast and high-precision terahertz spectroscopy and nonlinear photonics.
Project description:The ability to engineer quantum-cascade-lasers (QCLs) with ultrabroad gain spectra, and with a full compensation of the group velocity dispersion, at terahertz (THz) frequencies, is key for devising monolithic and miniaturized optical frequency-comb-synthesizers (FCSs) in the far-infrared. In THz QCLs four-wave mixing, driven by intrinsic third-order susceptibility of the intersubband gain medium, self-locks the optical modes in phase, allowing stable comb operation, albeit over a restricted dynamic range (?20% of the laser operational range). Here, we engineer miniaturized THz FCSs, comprising a heterogeneous THz QCL, integrated with a tightly coupled, on-chip, solution-processed, graphene saturable-absorber reflector that preserves phase-coherence between lasing modes, even when four-wave mixing no longer provides dispersion compensation. This enables a high-power (8 mW) FCS with over 90 optical modes, through 55% of the laser operational range. We also achieve stable injection-locking, paving the way to a number of key applications, including high-precision tunable broadband-spectroscopy and quantum-metrology.
Project description:The use of fundamental modelocking to generate short terahertz (THz) pulses and THz frequency combs from semiconductor lasers has become a routine affair, using quantum cascade lasers (QCLs) as a gain medium. However, unlike classic laser diodes, no demonstrations of harmonic modelocking, active or passive, have been shown in THz QCLs, where multiple pulses per round trip are generated when the laser is modulated at the harmonics of the cavity's fundamental round-trip frequency. Here, using time-resolved THz techniques, we show for the first time harmonic injection and mode-locking in which THz QCLs are modulated at the harmonics of the round-trip frequency. We demonstrate the generation of the harmonic electrical beatnote within a QCL, its injection locking to an active modulation and its direct translation to harmonic pulse generation using the unique ultrafast nature of our approach. Finally, we show indications of self-starting harmonic emission, i.e., without external modulation, where the QCL operates exclusively on a harmonic (up to its 15th harmonic) of the round-trip frequency. This behaviour is supported by time-resolved simulations of induced gain and loss in the system and shows the importance of the electronic, as well as photonic, nature of QCLs. These results open up the prospect of passive harmonic modelocking and THz pulse generation, as well as the generation of low-noise microwave generation in the hundreds of GHz region.
Project description:The exploitation of ultrafast electron dynamics in quantum cascade lasers (QCLs) holds enormous potential for intense, compact mode-locked terahertz (THz) sources, squeezed THz light, frequency mixers, and comb-based metrology systems. Yet the important sub-cycle dynamics have been notoriously difficult to access in operational THz QCLs. Here, we employ high-field THz pulses to perform the first ultrafast two-dimensional spectroscopy of a free-running THz QCL. Strong incoherent and coherent nonlinearities up to eight-wave mixing are detected below and above the laser threshold. These data not only reveal extremely short gain recovery times of 2 ps at the laser threshold, they also reflect the nonlinear polarization dynamics of the QCL laser transition for the first time, where we quantify the corresponding dephasing times between 0.9 and 1.5 ps with increasing bias currents. A density-matrix approach reproducing the emergence of all nonlinearities and their ultrafast evolution, simultaneously, allows us to map the coherently induced trajectory of the Bloch vector. The observed high-order multi-wave mixing nonlinearities benefit from resonant enhancement in the absence of absorption losses and bear potential for a number of future applications, ranging from efficient intracavity frequency conversion, mode proliferation to passive mode locking.
Project description:Mode-locked comb sources operating at optical frequencies underpin applications ranging from spectroscopy and ultrafast physics, through to absolute frequency measurements and atomic clocks. Extending their operation into the terahertz frequency range would greatly benefit from the availability of compact semiconductor-based sources. However, the development of any compact mode-locked THz laser, which itself is inherently a frequency comb, has yet to be achieved without the use of an external stimulus. High-power, electrically pumped quantum cascade lasers (QCLs) have recently emerged as a promising solution, owing to their octave spanning bandwidths, the ability to achieve group-velocity dispersion compensation and the possibility of obtaining active mode-locking. Here, we propose an unprecedented compact architecture to induce both frequency and amplitude self-modulation in a THz QCL. By engineering a microwave avalanche oscillator into the laser cavity, which provides a 10 GHz self-modulation of the bias current and output power, we demonstrate multimode laser emission centered around 3 THz, with distinct multiple sidebands. The resulting microwave amplitude and frequency self-modulation of THz QCLs opens up intriguing perspectives, for engineering integrated self-mode-locked THz lasers, with impact in fields such as nano- and ultrafast photonics and optical metrology.
Project description:Quantum cascade lasers (QCL) have revolutionized the generation of mid-infrared light. Yet, the ultrafast carrier transport in mid-infrared QCLs has so far constituted a seemingly insurmountable obstacle for the formation of ultrashort light pulses. Here, we demonstrate that careful quantum design of the gain medium and control over the intermode beat synchronization enable transform-limited picosecond pulses from QCL frequency combs. Both an interferometric radio-frequency technique and second-order autocorrelation shed light on the pulse dynamics and confirm that mode-locked operation is achieved from threshold to rollover current. Furthermore, we show that both anti-phase and in-phase synchronized states exist in QCLs. Being electrically pumped and compact, mode-locked QCLs pave the way towards monolithically integrated non-linear photonics in the molecular fingerprint region beyond 6??m wavelength.
Project description:A surface-emitting distributed feedback (DFB) laser with second-order gratings typically excites an antisymmetric mode that has low radiative efficiency and a double-lobed far-field beam. The radiative efficiency could be increased by using curved and chirped gratings for infrared diode lasers, plasmon-assisted mode selection for mid-infrared quantum cascade lasers (QCLs), and graded photonic structures for terahertz QCLs. Here, we demonstrate a new hybrid grating scheme that uses a superposition of second and fourth-order Bragg gratings that excite a symmetric mode with much greater radiative efficiency. The scheme is implemented for terahertz QCLs with metallic waveguides. Peak power output of 170?mW with a slope-efficiency of 993?mW A-1 is detected with robust single-mode single-lobed emission for a 3.4?THz QCL operating at 62?K. The hybrid grating scheme is arguably simpler to implement than aforementioned DFB schemes and could be used to increase power output for surface-emitting DFB lasers at any wavelength.
Project description:The frequency noise of an optical frequency comb is routinely measured through the hetherodyne beat of one comb tooth against a stable continuous-wave laser. After frequency-to-voltage conversion, the beatnote is sent to a spectrum analyzer to retrive the power spectral density of the frequency noise. Because narrow-linewidth continuous-wave lasers are available only at certain wavelengths, heterodyning the comb tooth can be challenging. We present a new technique for direct characterization of the frequency noise of an optical frequency comb, requiring no supplementary reference lasers and easily applicable in all spectral regions from the terahertz to the ultraviolet. The technique is based on the combination of a low finesse Fabry-Perot resonator and the so-called "fringe-side locking" method, usually adopted to characterize the spectral purity of single-frequency lasers, here generalized to optical frequency combs. The effectiveness of this technique is demonstrated with an Er-fiber comb source across the wavelength range from 1 to 2 μm.
Project description:Miniaturized frequency comb sources across hard-to-access spectral regions, i.e. mid- and far-infrared, have long been sought. Four-wave-mixing based Quantum Cascade Laser combs (QCL-combs) are ideal candidates, in this respect, due to the unique possibility to tailor their spectral emission by proper nanoscale design of the quantum wells. We demonstrate full-phase-stabilization of a QCL-comb against the primary frequency standard, proving independent and simultaneous control of the two comb degrees of freedom (modes spacing and frequency offset) at a metrological level. Each emitted mode exhibits a sub-Hz relative frequency stability, while a correlation analysis on the modal phases confirms the high degree of coherence in the device emission, over different power-cycles and over different days. The achievement of fully controlled, phase-stabilized QCL-comb emitters proves that this technology is mature for metrological-grade uses, as well as for an increasing number of scientific and technological applications.
Project description:Multiheterodyne techniques using frequency combs-radiation sources whose lines are perfectly evenly-spaced-have revolutionized science. By beating sources with the many lines of a comb, their spectra are recovered. Even so, these approaches are fundamentally limited to probing coherent sources, such as lasers. They are unable to measure most spectra that occur in nature. Here we present frequency comb ptychoscopy, a technique that allows for the spectrum of any complex broadband source to be retrieved using a comb. In this approach, the spectrum is reconstructed by unfolding the simultaneous beating of a source with each comb line. We demonstrate this both theoretically and experimentally, at microwave frequencies. This approach can reconstruct the spectrum of nearly any complex source to high resolution, and the speed, resolution, and generality of this technique will allow chip-scale frequency combs to have an impact in a wide swath of new applications, such as remote sensing and passive spectral imaging.
Project description:A terahertz (THz) frequency comb capable of high-resolution measurement will significantly advance THz technology application in spectroscopy, metrology and sensing. The recently developed cryogenic-cooled THz quantum cascade laser (QCL) comb has exhibited great potentials with high power and broadband spectrum. Here, we report a room temperature THz harmonic frequency comb in 2.2 to 3.3?THz based on difference-frequency generation from a mid-IR QCL. The THz comb is intracavity generated via down-converting a mid-IR comb with an integrated mid-IR single mode based on distributed-feedback grating without using external optical elements. The grating Bragg wavelength is largely detuned from the gain peak to suppress the grating dispersion and support the comb operation in the high gain spectral range. Multiheterodyne spectroscopy with multiple equally spaced lines by beating it with a reference Fabry-Pérot comb confirms the THz comb operation. This type of THz comb will find applications to room temperature chip-based THz spectroscopy.