Wide Bandwidth Variable Gain Optical Amplifier for Optical Communications Systems

Optical communications systems can suffer from fast (<= millisecond time frames) power variations that can reach across the entire signal spectrum. These type of variations can lead to excessive communications errors over these links, both when the amplitude variations occur over a shorter time scale than the bandwidth of the decision circuits designed to determine the presence of a mark or a space, or when the undesirable amplitude modulation exceeds the amplitude range of these decision circuits. There is also a possibility of damage to sensitive optical detectors in cases where the upper limit of the power variations exceeds the damage threshold of the optical detector.

APL’s developments in free-space optical communications—which sends data between two line-of-sight points through the atmosphere or space—may enable sharing large amounts of information including video. Free-space optical communicatiosn (FSOC) relies on light waves to carry data without the fibers or cables of fiber optic or radio frequency (RF) technologies. Another advantage of FSOC is the ability to handle very high data rates. APL's tests on this technology have shown that data can be transmitted at aggregate speeds greater and 80 gigabits per second, which is more than 100 times faster than fielded RF systems.

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