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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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.
The authors declare no competing financial interests.
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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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