Chalcogenide optical fibers: fabrication and applications

The mid-infrared spectral region plays a crucial technical and scientific role in a great range of research fields and applications. Herewith, the researches about mid-infrared supercontinuum generation based on optical fiber technology are regarded as the most popular in the last decades because optical fibers offer such benefits as broad wavelength coverage and high coherence.

To be more precise, the search for supercontinuum sources that can achieve the mid-infrared region (which covers the 2–20 µm electromagnetic spectral range) attracts a lot of attention in recent years because of the atmospheric transparent windows and the molecular fingerprint region. The thing is that these parameters make mid-IR combined with fiber optics a new source highly perspective in such applications as process spectroscopy, sensing systems, biology, metrology, and defense.

It should be noted that the conventional silica-based generation is considered to be limited, while other alternative materials  may effectively realize mid-IR generation, and chalcogenide optical fiber is one of these promising materials. Taking into consideration the optical and chemical features of these materials, chalcogenide optical fibers offer wide transparency in the Mid-IR range resulting in several orders of magnitude higher nonlinearity than conventional fused silica, therefore, the chalcogenide fibers overcome the other types.

Additionally, the combination of qualities from single-mode propagating and more flexible chromatic dispersion modification of microstructured optical fibers makes chalcogenide optical fibers optimal for MID IR fiber generation. Thus, chalcogenide fiber is the only one with a transparent domain paving the MID IR fiber region among optical fibers.

The fabrication of chalcogenide optical fiber includes its synthesis under vacuum environments and the process of purification in order to get out of optical absorption provoked by the presence of chemical bonds or impurities, finally resulting in a broad-bandwidth Mid-IR supercontinuum generation.

The advantages of chalcogenide fibers for MID IR fiber range are the following:

  • a broad coverage;
  • high coherence;
  • good beam quality. 

The mentioned benefits of chalcogenide optical fibers open up new opportunities for their application in process spectroscopy, sensing systems, biology, metrology, and spectral imaging. Nevertheless, there are some complex challenges to be solved before compact and reliable optical fiber sources are achieved. When these problems are solved, it will become real to employ full benefits of the unique and versatile fiber optic properties of chalcogenide optical fibers in the MID IR fiber spectrum, for instance,  endless single-mode propagation, high numerical aperture, and readily tunable dispersion.

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