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Mid-infrared supercontinuum covering the 1.4–13.3 μm molecular fingerprint region using ultra-high NA chalcogenide step-index fibre

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Abstract

The mid-infrared spectral region is of great technical and scientific interest because most molecules display fundamental vibrational absorptions in this region, leaving distinctive spectral fingerprints1,2. To date, the limitations of mid-infrared light sources such as thermal emitters, low-power laser diodes, quantum cascade lasers and synchrotron radiation have precluded mid-infrared applications where the spatial coherence, broad bandwidth, high brightness and portability of a supercontinuum laser are all required. Here, we demonstrate experimentally that launching intense ultra-short pulses with a central wavelength of either 4.5 μm or 6.3 μm into short pieces of ultra-high numerical-aperture step-index chalcogenide glass optical fibre generates a mid-infrared supercontinuum spanning 1.5 μm to 11.7 μm and 1.4 μm to 13.3 μm, respectively. This is the first experimental demonstration to truly reveal the potential of fibres to emit across the mid-infrared molecular ‘fingerprint region’, which is of key importance for applications such as early cancer diagnostics3, gas sensing2,4 and food quality control5.

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Figure 1: Measured and calculated chalcogenide fibre parameters.
Figure 2: Measured fibre and atmospheric losses and fibre geometry.
Figure 3: Experimental set-up for generating and measuring MIR SC.
Figure 4: Experimental SCG results with the pump centred at 4.5 μm.
Figure 5: Experimental SCG results with the pump centred at 6.3 μm.

Change history

  • 22 September 2014

    In the version of this Letter originally published, the received date was incorrect and should have read 14 March 2014. This error has now been corrected in all versions of the Letter.

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Acknowledgements

This work was supported by the European Commission through the Framework Seven (FP7) project MINERVA: MId- to NEaR infrared spectroscopy for improVed medical diAgnostics (317803; www.minerva-project.eu). The authors also acknowledge financial support from The Danish Advanced Technology Foundation (J.nr. 132-2012-3). The authors thank P. Klarskov, K. Iwaszczuk and C. Markos of the Department of Photonics Engineering, Technical University of Denmark, for providing invaluable technical assistance with the micro-bolometer, pyroelectric detector and scanning electron microscope images, respectively.

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Contributions

C.R.P. set up and performed the experiments, performed data analysis and was primary manuscript writer. U.M. designed the experiment, prepared fibre samples and contributed to writing the manuscript. I.K. performed the numerical work, including simulations and calculation of the fibre dispersion. B.Z. contributed to the experimental part as the laser and detection system technical expert, performed blackbody calibration and provided key input on the data analysis. S.D. and J.R. contributed to the experimental part and provided input to the set-up and experimental procedures. A.B.S. designed the thermally compatible, NA ≈ 1 core and cladding glasses for the fibre and designed processing to make the small-core fibre. T.M.B. contributed to optical fibre design, including activities focused on realizing MIR SCG in chalcogenide fibres. S.S. contributed to optical fibre design, including activities focused on realizing the Pr3+ fibre pump laser for MIR SCG in chalcogenide fibres. N.A.-M. smelted the glass and investigated the fibre geometry using scanning electron microscopy-energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy and the near-field performance of the fibre. Z.T. fabricated the fibre and measured the fibre optical loss. D.F. fabricated the preform and the fibre. O.B. conceived the project, directed the work, and was key contributor to the fibre design particularly suitable for MIR SCG. All authors discussed the results and implications, and commented on the manuscript at all stages.

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Correspondence to Christian Rosenberg Petersen.

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Petersen, C., Møller, U., Kubat, I. et al. Mid-infrared supercontinuum covering the 1.4–13.3 μm molecular fingerprint region using ultra-high NA chalcogenide step-index fibre. Nature Photon 8, 830–834 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1038/nphoton.2014.213

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