By designing a new fiber optic cable that suppresses lasing at the traditional 1,064 nm and 920 nm wavelengths, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory researchers discovered they could achieve significant positive optical gain in the 1,390 nm to 1,460 nm region. Additionally, the new fiber generated laser power and optical gain with relatively good efficiency. This discovery opens up the potential for installed optical fibers to operate in a transmission region known as E-band, in addition to the C and L bands where they currently operate—effectively doubling a single optical fiber's information-carrying potential.
"The key missing component for operating a telecom network in this wavelength region has been the optical fiber amplifier," said Jay Dawson, deputy program director for DoD Technologies in the NIF and Photon Science Directorate. "What we've done is effectively create something that will look and feel like a conventional erbium fiber amplifier, but in an adjacent wavelength region, doubling the carrying capacity of an optical-fiber amplifier."
The amplifiers would potentially allow telecom companies to more heavily leverage their installed base of equipment, requiring less capital investment than new cable—resulting in expanded bandwidth and lower costs to the end user. Installation of new cable is expensive; a service provider must not only purchase new cables, but also undergo the large expense of digging trenches to install the new cable.