Abstract

We optimized parameters of a dispersion-tuned wavelength-swept fiber laser by numerically analyzing dynamic characteristics. The optimized laser is experimentally demonstrated and applied to the swept-source optical coherence tomography (SS-OCT) system. The dispersion-tuned wavelength-swept laser (DT-WSL) is a unique tunable fiber laser, whose lasing wavelength can be tuned rapidly without any mechanical tunable filters. Although the wavelength of a DT-WSL can be swept rapidly and widely, the broadening of the instantaneous spectral width at a high sweep rate has been a critical drawback for SS-OCT applications. Numerical simulations have shown that higher modulation frequencies for active mode-locking lead to narrower instantaneous spectral widths. However, a lower modulation frequency is needed to achieve a wider wavelength tuning range. Pulse modulation is employed to solve the trade-off between instantaneous spectral width and wavelength tuning range. In this paper, the characteristics of a sinusoidally modulated and a pulse-modulated DT-WSL are compared numerically and experimentally. The numerical simulation results show that a pulse-modulated laser can achieve spectral widths as narrow as that of the sinusoidally modulated laser with >5  GHz modulation frequency, even when the pulse modulation frequency is as low as 500 MHz. We also study the difference in the laser characteristics with different sweep directions and discover that a positive wavelength sweep leads to a narrower instantaneous spectral width. We also experimentally confirmed that pulse modulation can indeed achieve a narrower spectral width, as expected from our numerical simulation results. The pulse-modulated DT-WSL is then used in an SS-OCT system and successfully achieves a coherence length of 1.3 mm, whereas that of a sinusoidally modulated DT-WSL is limited to only 0.7 mm. Furthermore, we experimentally compare the performance difference in OCT imaging with different wavelength sweep directions, and the results proved that it is advantageous to apply a positive wavelength sweep, as predicted by our numerical simulation.

© 2016 Optical Society of America

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