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Chapter 2

Optical Transmitter and Receivers

-Light Sources and transmitter
-Light Detectors and receiver
By Dejene Birile
Optics and Optical Communication
Haramaya University, Institute of Technology, IoT
Electrical and Computer Engineering Dept

Optical Link System Block Diagram #2
Light Sources - Properties
In order for the light sources to function properly and find
practical use, the following requirements must be satisfied:
• Output wavelength: must coincide with the loss minima of the
• Output power: must be high, using lowest possible current
and less heat
• High output directionality: narrow spectral width
• Wide bandwidth
• Low distortion
•High coupling efficiency
•The power requirement for its operation must be low.
•The sources must be highly reliable
•The sources should be reasonably low cost.
•The sources must have long lifetime and it must be possible to
operate the device continuously at room temperature.
Light Sources - Types
Every day light sources such as tungsten filament and arc lamps
are suitable, but there exists two types of devices, which are
widely used in optical fibre communication systems:
Light Emitting Diode (LED)
Slightly sharp light pulse
Semiconductor Laser Diode (SLD or LD).
Very sharp light pulse (single wavelength)
Very narrow

In both types of device the light emitting region consists of a pn

junction constructed of a direct band gap III-V semiconductor,
which when forward biased, experiences injected minority carrier
recombination, resulting in the generation of photons.

Review of Semiconductor Physics

kB  1.38 1023 JK-1

a) Energy level diagrams showing the excitation of an electron from the valence band to the
conduction band. The resultant free electron can freely move under the application of
electric field.
b) Equal electron & hole concentrations in an intrinsic semiconductor created by the thermal
excitation of electrons across the band gap
n-Type Semiconductor

a) Donor level in an n-type semiconductor.

b) The ionization of donor impurities creates an increased electron
concentration distribution. 6
p-Type Semiconductor

a) Acceptor level in an p-type semiconductor.

b) The ionization of acceptor impurities creates an increased hole concentration
distribution 7
The pn Junction

Electron diffusion across a pn

junction creates a barrier
potential (electric field)
in the depletion region.

Reverse-biased pn Junction

A reverse bias widens the depletion region, but allows minority

carriers to move freely with the applied field.
Forward-biased pn Junction

Lowering the barrier potential with a forward bias allows majority

carriers to diffuse across the junction. 10
LED - Structure
•The light output of an LED is the
spontaneous emission generated by
radiative recombination of electrons and
holes in the active region of the diode under Pt
forward bias. LEDs have relatively large Fibre
emitting areas and as a result are not as Photons P0
good light sources as Laser Diodes.
However, they are widely used for short to
moderate transmission distances because n-type p-type
they are much more economical, quite linear
in terms of light output versus electrical
current input and stable in terms of light
output versus ambient operating
temperature.LED emits incoherent, non- Narrowed
directional, and unpolarized spontaneous P0
Depletion region I
photons that are not amplified by stimulated - +
•An LED does not have a threshold current. Electron (-) Hole (+)
It starts emitting light as soon as an injection
current flows across the junction.
•A Light Emitting Diode (LED) produces
photons by combining holes and electrons in
a active layer of a semiconductor. 11
LED Structures and Configuration
• There are two possible structure in LED: Homostructure and
• Homostructure configuration have drawback where the active region is
too defuse which makes the device’s efficiency very low
• Homostructure makes the device radiates a broad light beam and make
coupling light into fiber inefficient.
• Most LED is design using heterostructure because its gives good
confinement of recombination process

a) Cross-section drawing of a
typical GaAlAs double
heterostructure light emitter.
In this structure, x>y to
provide for both carrier
confinement and optical

b) Energy-band diagram
showing the active region,
the electron & hole barriers
which confine the charge
carriers to the active layer.

c) Variations in the refractive

index; the lower refractive
index of the material in
regions 1 and 5 creates an
optical barrier around the
waveguide because of the
higher band-gap energy of
this material.

LED Structures and Configuration
•The peak emission wavelength in an LED is expressed as a
function of the bandgap energy, Eg in electron volts (eV) as
hc 1.24
c   μm
Eg E g (eV )
•For a ternary alloy, the relationship between the band gap
energy, Eg and fraction ratio, x , when 0≤ x≤ 0.37 is given by

Example : Consider a ternary alloy of Ga1-x Alx As, if x=0.07,

find the wavelength of operation.
Solution : we compute the band gap energy as

LED Structures and Configuration
• For photonic communications requiring data rate 100-200 Mb/s with
multimode fiber with tens of microwatts, LEDs are usually the best
• Two type LED configurations
– Edge Emitting LED (ELED)
– Surface Emitting LED (SLED)

Figure: LED structures a) Edge emitters b) Surface emitter 15

Edge Emitting LED (ELED)
• More complex and expensive devices, offer high output power levels and
high speed performance
• The output power is high because the emitting spot is very small, typically
30-50 µm, allowing good coupling efficiency to similarly sized optical fibers.
• Relatively narrow emission spectra.
• The super-radiant LED (highly directional perpendicular to pn junction). Have a
very high power density and possess some internal optical gain like a laser,
but the optical output is still incoherent, unlike a laser.
• They have high quantum efficiency & fast response.
• Higher data rate > 100 Mbps
• Multimode and single mode fibres

Surface Emitting LED (SLED)
• Comparatively simple structure, relatively inexpensive,
offer low-to-moderate output power levels, and are capable
of low-to-moderate operating speeds.
• Optical output power is as high or higher than the edge-
emitting LED, since the emitting area is large, causing poor
coupling efficiency to the optical fiber.
• Surface-emitting LEDs are almost perfect Lambertian
emitters. This means that they emit light in all directions.
• The radiant intensity is maximum normal to the surface and
decreases in proportion to the cosine of the angle from the
N = N0cos𝜽 (Lambert’s cosine law )

• Thus very little of the total light goes in the required direction
for injection into an optical fiber.
Surface-Emitting LED

Schematic of high-radiance surface-emitting LED. The active region

is limited to a circular cross section that has an area compatible with
the fiber-core end face.
• Data rates less than 20 Mbps
• Short optical links with large NA fibres (poor coupling)
• Coupling lens used to increase efficiency 18
Energy Gaps & FHWM in LEDs
• bandgap energy Eg:
Eg=hc/𝜆 = 1240eV-nm/𝜆

 The spectral width (The Full Half Wave Maximum, FHWM) of LED is
depending on the emitting surface of LED where surface emitting will
give more FWHM compare to the edge emitting.

Rate equations, Quantum Efficiency & Power of LEDs
• When there is no external carrier injection, the excess density
decays exponentially due to electron-hole recombination.
n(t )  n0e t /
• n is the excess carrier density,
n0 : initial injected excess electron density
 : carrier lifetime.

• Recombination rate R:
dn n
R 
dt 
• Recombination rate (R)=Radiative recombination rate + nonradiative
recombination rate
R  Rr  Rnr

1/τ  1/τ r  1/τ nr

Rate equations, Quantum Efficiency & Power of LEDs
With an external supplied current density of J the rate equation for the electron-
hole recombination is:
dn(t ) J n
 
dt qd 
q : charge of the electron; d : thickness of recombinat ion region
In equilibrium condition: dn/dt=0

Internal Quantum Efficiency & Recombination
• The internal quantum efficiency of a semiconductor material: the ratio of
the radiative electron-hole recombination coefficient to the total (radiative
and nonradiative) recombination coefficient.
Rr  nr  int : internal quantum efficiency in the active region
int      recombinat ion lifetimes
Rr  Rnr  r   nr  r
• This parameter is significant because it determines the efficiency of
light generation in a semiconductor material.

Optical power generated internally in the active region in the LED is:

i hci c
Pint  int h  int , 

Pint : Internal optical power,
i : Injected current to active region

External Quantum Efficiency
# of photons emitted from LED
ext 
# of LED internally generated photons
 In order to calculate the external quantum efficiency, we need to
consider the reflection effects at the surface of the LED. If we consider
the LED structure as a simple 2D slab waveguide, only light falling within
a cone defined by critical angle will be emitted from an LED.

Loss mechanisms that affect the external quantum efficiency:

(1) Absorption within LED

(2) Fresnel losses: part of the light gets reflected back,
reflection coefficient: R={(n2-n1)/(n2+n1)}
(3) Critical angle loss: all light gets reflected back if the incident angle
is greater than the critical angle.

The radiative and nonradiative recombination lifetimes of the minority
carriers in the active region of a LED are 60 ns and 100 ns. Determine the
total carrier recombination lifetime and the power internally generated
within the device when the peak emission wavelength is 870 nm at a
driving current of 40 mA.

• The total carrier recombination lifetime is given by

Output Optical power
• The output photon flux 𝟇o is related to the external quantum efficiency 𝞰ext
𝟇o= 𝞰ext i/e

•The LED output optical power Po : Po= h𝝼 𝟇o = 𝞰ext h𝝼 i/e

•The internal efficiency 𝞰in for LEDs ranges between 50% -100%
The external quantum efficiency of LEDs is thus typically below 50%.

•The linear dependence of the LED output power Po on the injected current i is
valid only when the current is less than a certain value (say few tens of mA on a
typical LED). For larger currents , saturation causes the proportionality to fail
(known as “current droop”).

Responsivity or Gain
• The responsivity R of a LED is defined as the ratio of the emitted optical
power po to injected current i, i.e. R= Po/i
R= Po/i = h𝝼 𝟇o /i = 𝞰ext h𝝼 /e

•The responsivity in W/A, when 𝝺o is expressed in 𝝁m.

R= 𝞰ext 1.24/ 𝝺o

Power-conversion efficiency
•Another measure of performance is the power-conversion efficiency,
defined as the ratio of the emitted optical power Po to the applied electrical
power (or efficiency of converting electrical power to optical power).
𝞰c = Po/i V= 𝞰ext h𝝼 /eV

where V is the voltage drop across the device

•Note that 𝞰c <𝞰ext because h 𝝼 < eV, where eV = Ec –Ev

Definition of laser
• A laser is a device that generates light by a process called
• The acronym LASER stands for Light Amplification by
Stimulated Emission of Radiation
• Semiconducting lasers are multilayer semiconductor devices
that generates a coherent beam of monochromatic light by
laser action. A coherent beam resulted which all of the
photons are in phase.
• Laser is an optical oscillator. It comprises a resonant optical
amplifier whose output is fed back into its input with
matching phase.
mirror 1 mirror 2

Mirrors used to
“re-cycle” phonons” “LED” coherent light

R = 0.99 R = 0.90
For Successful Lasing Action:
•Optical Gain - which can support a population inversion.
 Achieved by population inversion
 Optical power increases on each pass through amplifying medium
•Optical resonator - Optical Feedback or cavity to create a high
radiation density.
 Achieved by device configuration eg. 2 mirrors - this arrangment is
referred as an oscillator cavity or Fabry Perot cavity
 Needed to increase the total optical amplification by making photons
pass through the gain region multiple times.
•Pump source-An external exciter to create the population
inversion in the gain medium.
Pumping process prepares amplifying medium in suitable state

Laser components
•gain medium, a
feedback system, a
pump and an output
coupling system
Mechanism of Light Emission
• Three main process for laser action (light emission):
1- Photon absorption – pumped source
2- Spontaneous emission
3- Stimulated emission

In stimulated emission, an incoming photon with energy h stimulates the emission
process by inducing electrons in E2 to transit down to E1.
While moving down to E1, photon of the same energy h will be emitted
Resulting in 2 photons coming out of the system
Photons are amplified – one incoming photon resulting in two photons coming out.
When a photon with certain energy is incident on an electron in a
semiconductor at the ground state(lower energy level E1 the
electron absorbs the energy and shifts to the higher energy level
The energy now acquired by the electron is Ee = hf = E2 - E1. Plank's law

E2 E2
Ee = hf
E1 E1
Initial state


Excited electron
final state
Spontaneous Emission
• E2 is unstable and the excited electron(s) will return back to the
lower energy level E1
• As they fall, they give up the energy acquired during absorption in
the form of radiation, which is known as the spontaneous emission

E2 E2

E1 E1 Ee = hf
Initial state

Stimulated Emission
• But before the occurrence of this spontaneous emission process, if
external stimulation (photon) is used to strike the excited atom then, it will
stimulate the electron to return to the lower state level.
• By doing so it releases its energy as a new photon. The generated
photon(s) is in phase and have the same frequency as the incident
• The result is generation of a coherent light composed of two or more
• In quantum mechanic – Two process: Absorption and Stimulated

E2 E2 Ee = hf

Ee = hf Ee = hf
Coherent light
E1 Ee = hf

Requirement:  <0 Light amplification: I(x) = I0exp(-x)

Stimulated Emission- Coherent photons
Spontaneous emission
 Photons emitted in all directions and on a random time scale.
 The emitted photons are INCOHERENT
Stimulated emission
 Emitted and stimulating photons have the same :
• Frequency (or energy)
• Direction
• Phase

 The emitted and incident photons are COHERENT

Laser Diode
• A laser diode (LD) is a semiconductor optical amplifier (SOA) that has an
optical feedback.
• A semiconductor optical amplifier is a forward-biased heavily-doped p+-
n+ junction fabricated from a direct-bandgap semiconductor material.
• The injected current is sufficiently large to provide optical gain.
• The optical feedback is usually implemented by cleaving the
semiconductor material along its crystal planes - cleaved surfaces to act
as reflectors.
=> The semiconductor crystal therefore in general can act both as a gain
medium and as a Fabry-Perot optical resonator.

The diode is
often cleaved
at one end and
roughened at
the other end.

Structure of Laser Diode
• Laser diode structure is quite similar to the construction of
the edge emitting LED
• Two ends surface are cleaved to make them work as mirror
for positive feedback
• The thickness of active region in laser diode is very small

The Lasing Action
• The population inversion region is a layer along the junction  also
call inversion layer or active region
• Now consider a photon with E = Eg = Ec-Ev .Obviously this photon
can not excite electrons from EV since there is NO electrons there
• However the photon CAN STIMULATE electron to fall down from
CB to VB.
• Therefore, the incoming photon stimulates emission than absorption
• The active region is then said to have ‘optical gain’ since the
incoming photon has the ability to cause emission rather than being

Pumping Mechanism in Laser Diode

• It is obvious that the population inversion between energies near EC and
those near EV occurs by injection of large charge carrier across the
junction by forward biasing the junction.
• Therefore the pumping mechanism is FORWARD DIODE CURRENT 
Injection pumping
Population Inversion in Diode Laser
More electrons in
the conduction
band near EC
Electrons in CB

eV Eg
Than electrons in
Holes in VB the valance band
EFp near EV

EFn-EfP = eV
There is therefore a population inversion between
eV > Eg
energies near EC and near EV around the junction.
eV = forward bias voltage
This only achieved when degenerately doped p-n
Fwd Diode current pumping  junction is forward bias with energy eV > Egap
injection pumping
Diode Laser Operation
p+ Junction n+
E p+ n+
g eV E E
o c Fn
Inversion E
E region c
Ev Holes in VB E E
g eV
Fp Electrons Electrons in CB E Fn

(a ) v (b )

•P-n junction must be degenerately doped.

•Forward bias, eV> Eg
•Fermi level in valance band (p) and
conduction band (n). •Built in potential diminished to zero
•No bias, built n potential; eVo barrier to stop •Electrons and holes can diffuse to the space
electron and holes movement charge layer
Semiconductor Laser Rate Equations
• Rate equations relate the optical output power, or number of photons
per unit volume,  , to the diode drive current or number of injected
electrons per unit volume, n. For active (carrier confinement) region of
depth d, the rate equations are:
Rate of change of
photon numbers = stimulated emission + spontaneous emission + loss
d 
 Cn  Rsp 
dt  ph
Rate of change of
electron numbers = Injection + spontaneous emission + stimulated spontaneous
dn J n
   Cn
dt qd  sp
C : Coefficient expressingthe intensityof the opticalemission & absorptionprocess
Rsp : rate of spontaneous emission into the lasing mode
 ph : photonlife time
J : Injection current density
Threshold Current Density & Excess electron density
  0, d / dt  0, Rsp  0
• At the threshold of lasing:
from above equation  Cn   /  ph  0  n   nth
C ph
• The threshold current needed to maintain a steady state threshold
concentration of the excess electron, is found from electron rate
equation under steady state condition dn/dt=0 when the laser is just
about to lase:
J th nth nth
0   J th  qd
qd  sp  sp
Laser operation beyond the threshold
J  J th
•The solution of the rate equations gives the steady state photon density,
resulting from stimulated emission and spontaneous emission as follows:
 ph
s  ( J  J th )   ph Rsp 40
Laser Diodes (LD)
Standing wave (modes) exists at
frequencies for which

L i
L , i = 1, 2, ..
2n n = refractive index

Modes are separated by

f 
Optical confinement
2nL 2nL 2nL
In terms of wavelength separation     for i  1
i i 1 i

 Modes 2 2
   f
2nL c
Gaussian output

5 3 1 01 3 5 41
Wavelength (nm)
Power Vs. Current Characteristics



3 Stimulated
2 (lasing)
1 Spontaneous emission

Threshold current
Current I (mA) Ith

 laserdiode start to lasing only when the forward current is

above the threshold current
Laser Diode Characteristics
• Laser diode light that can characterized as below
– Monochromatic : The spectral width of the radiated light is very
narrow. The line width of a laser diode can be in tenth or hundred of
nanometer. Since the laser diode is monochromatic, the light is
easy directed especially directed into the fiber.
– Well directed: A laser diode radiates narrow , well directed beam
that can be easily launched into optical fiber
– Highly intense and power efficient: A laser diode can radiate
hundreds of milliwatts of output power. LD making the current to light
conversion 10 times more efficient than it is in the best LEDs.
– Coherent: Light radiates by a laser diode is coherent; where all
oscillation are in phase. Since laser diode produces coherent light it
provides better detection for receiver of an information signal.

Types of Laser Diode (LD)
• There are two types of Laser diode commonly used in
communication system
– Fabry-Perot laser diode
– Distributed feedback (DFB) laser diode

Laser - Fabry-Perot Laser Diode
 Strong optical feedback in the longitudinal direction
 Multiple longitudinal mode spectrum Ppeak
 “Classic” semiconductor laser
– 1st fibre optic links (850 nm or 1300 nm)
– Short & medium range links

 Key characteristics P
– Wavelength: 850 or 1310 nm
– Total output power: a few mw
– Spectral width: 3 to 20 nm
– Mode spacing: 0.7 to 2 nm
– Highly polarized
– Small NA ( good coupling into fiber) 250-500 um

Cleaved faces 5-15 um

Laser - Fabry-Perot Laser Diode
• The arrangement for Fabry-Perot laser diode is where the active medium
is place between two mirror
• Two mirror in the arrangement to provide positive feedback for laser
• Fabry-Perot lasers are the most economical, but they are generally noisy,
slower devices.
• The radiation in a laser diode is generated within a Fabry-Perot resonator

Laser - Fabry-Perot Laser Diode
• To determine the lasing condition and resonant frequencies, we should
focus on the optical wave propagation along the longitudinal direction, z-
• The optical field intensity, I(z,t), can be written as:

I ( z, t )  I ( z )e j (t  z )
• Lasing is the condition at which light amplification becomes possible by
virtue of population inversion. Then, stimulated emission rate into a given
EM mode is proportional to the intensity of the optical radiation in that mode.
• In this case, the loss and gain of the optical field in the optical path
determine the lasing condition. Population inversion must be achieved so
that optical amplification and thus the lasing can start. For this to happen,
gains in the cavity must overcome losses.
• After traversing a distance of z in the cavity, the optical intensity will become
I ( z)  I (0) exp g   z 
• Where 𝜞 is called the confinement factor, g represents the gain,  is the
absorption coefficient. 47
Laser - Fabry-Perot Laser Diode
• For one round trip covers a length of z= 2L and involves
reflections from mirrors with reflectivity coefficients of R1 and
R2 which are given by

• Hence after being reflected from the mirrors,

I ( z  2L)  I (0) R1R2 exp g   (2L)
Lasing Conditions:For oscillations to occur, the magnitude and the
phase of the returned wave must be equal at z < 0 and z = 2L,
I ( z  2 L)  I ( z  0) for amplitude
exp(  j 2L)  1 for phase

Threshold gain & current density
1  1 
g th    ln   Laser starts to " lase" iff : g  gth
2L   R1 R2

•Then the Carrier Density at the conduction band

Example1: For a GaAs laser diode,R1= R2 = 0.32, absorption coefficient 𝜶

=10 cm-1 and cavity length is L=500 m L, find the minimum value for the
product of confinement and gain factor, i.e., 𝜞g for lasing to start.

Example2: what is Ith, if gain coefficient a=1.35x10-16cm2, transparent carrier density

N0=1.1x1018/cm3 , L=300um, active layer thickness 0.2um, width 2um, internal loss
α=10cm-1, optical confinement factor Γ=0.3, carrier lifetime τ=2ns, R1=R2

Laser - Distributed Feedback (DFB)
No cleaved faces, uses Bragg Reflectors for lasing
Single longitudinal mode spectrum
High performance
– Costly
– Long-haul links & DWDM systems
Key characteristics Corrugated feedback Bragg

– Wavelength: around 1550 nm

– Total power output: 3 to 50 mw
– Spectral width: 10 to 100 MHz (0.08 to 0.8 pm)
– Small NA ( good coupling into fiber)
P peak


Laser - Distributed Feedback (DFB)
• In DFB lasers, the optical resonator structure is due to the incorporation
of Bragg grating or periodic variations of the refractive index into
multilayer structure along the length of the diode.
• The Bragg grating is used to reduce the spectral width of the laser
• The Bragg grating only allow selective wavelength propagate
• This Bragg grating also acts as mirror

Output power, mW

Δλ λ (nm)

Figure: The DFB laser diode & its spectrum
Laser - Distributed Feedback (DFB)(Cont’1)
• The spectral width of the laser spectrum is extremely narrow
and suitable for communication system especially in WDM
• DFB lasers are quieter devices (e.g., high signal-to-noise),
have narrower spectral widths, and are usually faster
• DFB lasers offer the highest performance levels and also
the highest cost of the two types.
– They are nearly monochromatic (i.e. they emit a very pure
single color of light.) while FP lasers emit light at a
number of discrete wavelengths.
– DFB lasers tend to be used for the highest speed digital
applications and for most analog applications because of
their faster speed, lower noise, and superior linearity.

Comparison (Revision)
LED Laser Diode

 Low efficiency  High efficiency

 Slow response time  Fast response time
 Lower data transmission rate  Higher data transmission rate
 Broad output spectrum  Narrow output spectrum
 In-coherent beam  Coherent output beam
 Low launch power  Higher bit rate
 Higher distortion level at the output  High launch power
 Suitable for shorter transmission  Less distortion
distances.  Suitable for longer transmission
 Higher dispersion distances
 Less temperature dependent  Lower dispersion
 Simple construction  More temperature dependent
 Life time 107 hours  Construction is complicated
 Life time 107 hours
Optical Transmitter
• The starting point of the optical communication system is the transmitter
where the electrical signal convert to the optical signal by modulate the
optical source.
• The most important part on this circuit is the light source, because the
design of the circuit is depending on the source.
• The most common devices used as the light source in optical transmitters
are the light emitting diode (LED) and the laser diode (LD).
• The difference between LEDs and laser diodes is that LEDs produce
incoherent light, while laser diodes produce coherent light.
• The basic optical transmitter converts electrical input signals into
modulated light for transmission over an optical fiber.

On-OFF Modulation Linear Modulation
Optical Transmitter Design
 Electrical driver
– DC driver
• Sufficient light for illumination
• Laser: lasing level
• Ensuring linear modulation
– AC driver (modulator)
– Modulation depth
 Transmitter Field-of-View (FOV)
– Link range
– Coverage
 Modulation schemes

Two Main Approaches to Optical Transmission

An external modulator offers extended transmission distance

The transmitter includes components for control of temperature and
average power
A transmitter often contains circuitry for re-shaping and re-timing data
Driver Circuit
– Analogue (Transistors)
– Digital (Logic gate, opamp)
– Discrete (transistor, R, L, C)
• Flexible to build and test but bulky
• Low speed, problem with parasitic, matching
– Integrated circuit (IC)
• Compact, cheap
• Well calibrated and tested
• High speed and good coupling

The process transmitting information via light carrier (or any carrier signal) is called
• Direct Intensity (current)
• Inexpensive (LED)
• In LD it suffers from chirp up to 1 nm (wavelength variation
due to variation in electron densities in the lasing area)


RF modulating R Intensity Modulated

signal optical carrier signal
External Modulation
• For high frequencies 2.5 Gbps - 40 Gbps
• AM sidebands (caused by modulation spectrum) dominate linewidth of optical signal

Laser Source (LD)
Modulated optical
R carrier signal

RF (modulating signal)