# Microwave Photonics: Photonic Generation of Microwave and Millimeter-wave Signals

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1 16 Microwave Photonics: Photonic Generation of Microwave and Millimeter-wave Signals Jianping Yao Microwave Photonics Research Laboratory School of Information Technology and Engineering University of Ottawa, ON K1N 6N5, Canada Abstract- Techniques to generate microwave and millimeter-wave (mm-wave) signals in the optical domain will be reviewed, with an emphasis on the techniques for microwave generation based on heterodyne of two phase correlated wavelengths. Index Terms- Microwave photonics, photonic generation of microwave signals. I. INTRODUCTION A low phase noise and frequency-tunable microwave or millimeter-wave (mm-wave) source is desirable for many applications such as in radar, wireless communications, software defined radio, and modern instrumentation. Conventionally, a microwave or mm-wave signal is generated based on electronic circuitry with many stages of frequency multiplication to achieve the desired frequency. The system is complicated and costly. In addition, for many applications, the generated microwave or mm-wave signal should be distributed to a remote site. The distribution of a microwave or mm-wave signal in the electrical domain is not practical due to the high loss associated with electrical distribution lines, such as coaxial cable. Thanks to the extremely broad bandwidth and low loss of the state-of-the-art optical fibers, the distribution of a microwave or mm-wave signal over optical fiber is an ideal solution to fulfill this task. Therefore, the ability to generate a microwave or mm-wave signal in the optical domain would allow the distribution of the signal over an optical fiber from a central office to a remote site, greatly simplifying the equipment requirement. E () t = E cos ω t+φ E () t = E cos ω t+φ IRF = Acos ω1 ω 2 + ( φ1 φ2) Fig. 1. Optical heterodyning of two optical waves to generate a microwave or mm-wave signal. PD: photodetector. Usually, a microwave or mm-wave signal can be generated in the optical domain based on optical heterodyning, in which two optical waves of different wavelengths beat at a photodetector. An electrical beat note is then generated at the output of the photodetector with a frequency corresponding to the wavelength spacing of the two optical waves [1]. Assume that we have two optical waves given by E () t = E cos ω t +φ, (1) E () t = E cos ω t +φ, (2) where E 01, E 02 are the amplitude terms and φ 1, φ 2 are the phase terms of the two optical waves. Considering the limited bandwidth of the photodetector, the current at the output of the photodetector is given by I = Acos ω ω +φ ( φ ) RF , (3) where A is a constant which is determined by E 01, E 02 and the responsivity of the photodetector. As can be seen from (3), an electrical signal with a frequency equal to the frequency difference of the two optical waves is generated. This technique is capable of generating an electrical signal with a frequency up to the THz band, limited only by the bandwidth of the photodetector. However, by beating two optical waves from two free-running laser sources would generate a microwave or mm-wave signal with high phase noise since the phase terms of the two optical waves are not correlated, which will be transferred to the generated microwave or mm-wave signal. Numerous techniques have been proposed and demonstrated in the last few years to generate low-phase-noise microwave or mmwave signals with the two optical waves being locked in phase. These techniques can be classified into four categories: 1) Optical injection locking, 2) Optical phase-lock loop (OPLL), 3) Microwave generation using external modulation, and 4) Dual-wavelength laser source.

2 17 λ0 λ0 effective phase locking, the two lasers should be selected to have narrow line-widths and therefore have phase fluctuations only at low frequencies, which would ease significantly the requirement for a very short feedback loop. Fig. 2. Optical injection locking of two slave lasers. The master laser is directly modulated by a RF reference with its output injected into the two slave lasers. The slave lasers are wavelength-locked by the +2 nd -order and -2 nd -order sidebands from the output of the master laser. II OPTICAL INJECTION LOCKING To generate a high-quality microwave or mm-wave signal, the phase terms of the two optical waves used for heterodyning must be highly correlated. The phase coherence of two laser diodes can be realized by using optical injection locking [2]. Fig. 2 shows an optical injection locking system that consists of one master laser and two slave lasers. As can be seen an RF reference is applied to the master laser. Due to frequency modulation (FM) at the master laser, an optical carrier and different orders of optical sidebands are generated at the output of the master laser. The signal at the output of the master laser is then injected into the two slave lasers. The two slave lasers are selected such that their free-running wavelengths are close to two sidebands, say the +2 nd and -2 nd order sidebands in Fig. 2. Therefore, the wavelengths of the two slave lasers are locked to the +2 nd and -2 nd order sidebands, optical injection locking is thus achieved [2]. Since the two wavelengths from the two slave lasers are phase correlated, the beating of the two wavelengths at a photodetector would generate a beat note with low phase noise. In addition, depending on the design, the frequency of the beat note is equal to an integer multiple of the frequency of the RF reference applied to the master laser. II. OPTICAL PHASE LOCK LOOP Another approach to achieving phase correlation between two optical waves is to use an optical phase lock loop (OPLL), in which the phase of one laser is actively locked to that of a second laser by an OPLL, as shown in Fig. 3. This technique has been explored extensively in the past few years [3]-[9]. To achieve Fig. 3. Schematic of an optical phase lock loop. LD: laser diode. PD: photodetector. As shown in Fig. 3, a beat note is generated at the output of the photodetector. The phase of the beat note is compared with that of an RF reference from a microwave generator at a mixer followed by a lowpass filter. The module in the dotted box is an electrical phase detector, with the output voltage being proportional to the phase difference between the beat note and the RF reference, which is an error voltage that is fed back to control the phase of one of the laser source by changing the laser cavity length or the injection current. With a proper feedback loop gain and response time, the relative phase fluctuations between the two lasers are significantly reduced and the phase of the beat note is locked to that of the RF reference. To increase the frequency acquisition capability, a modified OPLL that incorporated a frequency discriminator was proposed [8]. It was demonstrated with the incorporation of the frequency discriminator, a pull-in range as large as 300 MHz was realized. To reduce the feedback frequency, recently an OPLL incorporating a frequency down-conversion module was proposed and demonstrated [9]. The use of the frequency down-conversion module allows the use of lower-frequency components in the phase control module, which would reduce significantly the system cost. In addition, in a discriminator-aided OPLL, the use of the frequency down-conversion module would also allow the use of lower-frequency components in the frequency control module to reduce the system cost [9]. III. MICROWAVE GENERATION BASED ON EXTERNAL MODULATION High-quality microwave signals can also be generated based on external modulation [10-13]. A method to generate an mm-wave signal using an external optical

5 20 homogeneous line broadening at room temperature which makes the two wavelengths to compete strongly with each other, leading to a very unstable operation. Recently, a dual-wavelength fiber laser implemented based on a sigma architecture that is composed of a ring loop and a linear standing wave arm was experimentally demonstrated [22]. Gain competition that prevents stable dual-wavelength oscillation is effectively suppressed by placing the gain medium in the standing-wave arm and by introducing polarization hole burning (PHB) via polarization multiplexing of the two lasing wavelengths in the ring loop, as shown in Fig. 7. The single frequency operation for each of the two wavelengths is guaranteed by an ultranarrow Fabry-Perot filter (FPF) introduced by absorption saturation in an unpumped erbium-doped fiber (EDF) and the gain saturation in the gain medium. In addition, the ring cavity forms a Lyot filter for each wavelength. Thus, wavelength switching is achieved by simply adjusting the polarization state of either wavelength. By beating the two SLM wavelengths at a photodetector, a microwave signal with a frequency tunable from ~10 to ~50 GHz is experimentally generated. Fig. 8(a) shows the spectrum of a generated microwave at 10 GHz. The electrical spectrum is shown in Fig. 8(b). The stability of the generated signal can be seen from the stable output at the generated electrical signal. The phase noise performance is shown in Fig. 8(c). Fig. 8. Generation of 10-GHz microwave signal using the proposed fiber laser. (a) The optical spectra measured at a 3-min interval over a 36-min period; (b) the electrical spectra measured at a 3-min interval over a 36-min period, with RBW = 300 khz; (c) the zoomin view of the beating signal at SPAN = 1 MHz, RBW = 9.1 khz. The performance of the system shown in Fig. 7 was further improved by incorporating a high-finesse ring filter that was realized using a weakly pumped erbium-doped fiber in the ring. Thanks to the use of the high finesse ring filter, the side mode suppression ratio was greatly improved [23]. Fig. 7. A wavelength-switchable single-frequency dual-wavelength EDFA laser for microwave generation. V. CONCLUSION Microwave and mm-wave signals can be generated in the optical domain by heterodyning two wavelengths that are correlated in phase at a photodetector. Different techniques to achieve phase correlation have been proposed in the last few decades. In this paper, the techniques have been reviewed. In addition to the techniques discussed in this paper, there are other techniques to generate optically microwave signals, such as the microwave generation using an optoelectronic oscillator [24]. Microwave signals can also be generated based on optical pulse shaping [25], but the generated signals are usually pulsed. The key challenge in using the techniques for practical

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