Optical communications are more and more prevailing for the high demand for telecommunication, video and data transmission. The optical fibre is capable of transmitting many signals over long distance to meet people’s various requirements. But the signals are easily attenuated in the long-distance high speed networks. Amplifiers are a key enabling technology for strengthening optical signals. Electrical amplifiers are originally used but gradually replaced by optical amplifiers.
Optical amplifier is a device that can amplify optical signals directly without the need to convert them into electrical ones. Electrical amplifier is originally used but gradually replaced by optical amplifier. It is a much cheaper solution in comparison with electrical amplifier which has costly conversions from optical to electrical signal. The longer the transmission distance is, the more electrical signals need to be converted, which makes the cost of electrical amplification higher and higher. So optical amplifier is used in an increasing number. More detailed information about it is as followed.
Optical amplifiers can be used as power boosters, in-line amplifiers and detector pre-amplifiers in fibre optical data links. Booster amplifiers are used to increase the optical output of optical transmitters when signals haven’t entered the optical fibres. Once transmitted, the optical signals are attenuated by 0.2dB/km. In-line amplifiers are then used to restore the optical signals to its original power level. At the end of the data link are pre-amplifiers which are used to increase the sensitivity of an optical receiver.
There are three most important types of optical amplifiers including erbium-doped fibre amplifier(EDFA), semiconductor optical amplifier (SOA) and Raman amplifier. Here will introduce them briefly.
Erbium-Doped fibre amplifier: it is an optical or IR repeater that amplifies a modulated laser beam directly without optical to electrical conversion. It uses a short length of optical fibre doped with the rare-earth element erbium. The signals-carrying laser beams are usually at IR wavelengths with application of external energy. It has low noise and capable of amplifying many wavelengths simultaneously, which is an excellent choice in optical communications.
Semiconductor optical amplifier: it is an optical amplifier which uses a semiconductor to provide the gain medium. The gain medium is undoped InGaAsP. This material can be tailored to provide optical amplification at wavelengths near 1.3 µm or near 1.5 µm which are important wavelengths for optical communications. It makes fewer noises than EDFA and generates less handle power. But it is more suitable to be used in networks where the best performance is not required for it is less expensive.
Raman amplifier: it is an optical amplifier based on Raman gain created by Raman scattering, which works entirely differently from EDFA or SOA. Raman optical amplifier have two key elements: the pump laser and the directional coupler. The pump laser has a wavelength of 90 nm to 1500 nm. The circulator provides a convenient means of injecting light backwards in to the transmission path with minimal optical loss. Raman amplification occurs throughout the length of transmission fibre, which makes Raman amplifier known as distributed amplifier.
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