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Chapter: Optical Communication and Networking : Transmission Characteristics of Optical Fiber

Nonlinear scattering losses

1. Stimulated Brillouin scattering 2. Stimulated Raman scattering

Nonlinear scattering losses


Optical waveguides do not always behave as completely linear channels whose increase in output optical power is directly proportional to the input optical power. Several nonlinear effects occur, which in the case of scattering cause disproportionate attenuation, usually at high optical power levels.


This nonlinear scattering causes the optical power from one mode to be transferred in either the forward or backward direction to the same, or other modes, at a different frequency. It depends critically upon the optical power density within the fiber and hence only becomes significant above threshold power levels.


The most important types of nonlinear scattering within optical fibers are stimulated Brillouin and Raman scattering, both of which are usually only observed at high optical power densities in long single-mode fibers. These scattering mechanisms in fact give optical gain but with a shift in frequency, thus contributing to attenuation for light transmission at a specific wavelength. However, it may be noted that such nonlinear phenomena can also be used to give optical amplification in the context of integrated optical techniques


1. Stimulated Brillouin scattering


Stimulated Brillouin scattering (SBS) may be regarded as the modulation of light through thermal molecular vibrations within the fiber. The scattered light appears as upper and lower sidebands which are separated from the incident light by the modulation frequency. The incident photon in this scattering process produces a phonon* of acoustic frequency as well as a scattered photon. This produces an optical frequency shift which varies with the scattering angle because the frequency of the sound wave varies with acoustic wavelength.


The frequency shift is a maximum in the backward direction, reducing to zero in the forward direction, making SBS a mainly backward process. As indicated previously, Brillouin scattering is only significant above a threshold power density. Assuming that the polarization state of the transmitted light is not maintained, it may be shown that the threshold power PB is given by:

where d and λ are the fiber core diameter and the operating wavelength, respectively, both measured in micrometers, αdB is the fiber attenuation in decibels per kilometer and ν is the source bandwidth (i.e. injection laser) in gigahertz. The expression given in Eq. (2.6) allows the determination of the threshold optical power which must be launched into a single-mode optical fiber before SBS occurs


2. Stimulated Raman scattering


Stimulated Raman scattering (SRS) is similar to SBS except that a high-frequency optical phonon rather than an acoustic phonon is generated in the scattering process. Also, SRS can occur in both the forward and backward directions in an optical fiber, and may have an optical power threshold of up to three orders of magnitude higher than the Brillouin threshold in a particular fiber.


Using the same criteria as those specified for the Brillouin scattering threshold given in Eq. (2.6), it may be shown that the threshold optical power for SRS PR in a long single-mode fiber is given by:

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