The eribum-doped fiber amplifier (EDFA) was first reported in 1987, and, in the short period since then, its applications have transformed the optical communications industry. Before the advent of optical amplifers, optical transmission systems typically consisted of a digital transmitter and a receivere separated by spans of transmission optical fiber intersersed with optoelectronic regenerators. The optoelectronic regenerators corrected attenuation, dispersion, and other transmission degradations of the optical signal by detecting the attenuated and distorted data pulses, electronically reconstituting them, and then optically transmitting the regenerated data into the next transmission span.
The EDFA is an optical amplifer that faithfully amplifies lightwave signals purely in the optical domain. EDFAs have several potential functions in optical fiber transmission systems. They can be used as power amplifiers to boost transmitter power, as repeaters or in-line amplifiers to increase system reach, or as preamplifiers to enhance receiver sensitivity. The most far-reaching impact of EDFAs has resulted from their use as repeaters in place of conventional optoelectronic regenerators to compensate for transmission loss and extend the span between digital terminals. Used as a repeater, the optical amplifier offers the possibility of transforming the optical transmission line into a transparent optical pipeline that will support signals independent of their modulation format or their channel data rate. Additionally, optical amplifiers support the use of wavelenth division multiplexing (WDM), whereby signals of different wavelengths are combined and transmitted together on the same transmission fiber.
In fiber optic systems amplification of the signal is necessary because no fiber material is absolutely transparent. This causes the infrared light (usually around 1530nm) carried by a fiber to be attenuated as it travels through the material. Because of this attenuation, repeaters must be used in spans of optical fiber longer than approximately 100 kilometers.
The operating wavelength range of a standard EDFA spans over the entire so-called “C band” (1530 to 1560 nm) and therefore allows amplification of a variety of wavelength channels that are used in wave-length division multiplexing (WDM)applications. This is a major advantage over methods in which the optical signal is converted into an electrical signal, amplified and converted back to light. Due to the last step, such O/E-E/O regenerators require the demultiplexing and multiplexing of each single WDM channel at each regenerator site and an O/E-E/O pair for each channel.
The configuration of a co-propagating EDFA is shown in Figure 5. The optical pump is combined with the optical signal into the erbium-doped fiber with a wavelength division multiplexer. A second multiplexer removes residual pump light from the fiber. An in-line optical filter provides additional insurance that pump light does not reach the output of the optical amplifiers. An optical isolator is used to prevent reflected light from other portions of the optical system from entering the amplifier.
Figure 5. An EDFA for which the optical signal and optical pump are co-propagating.
An EDFA with a counter propagating pump is pictured in Figure 6. The co-propagating geometry produces an amplifier with less noise and less output power. The counter propagating geometry produces a noisier amplifier with high output power. A compromise can be made by combining the co- and counter-propagating geometries in a bi-directional configuration.
The propagation and amplification properties of an erbium-doped fiber at 1550 nm are obtained. A simple EDFA is constructed, and its performance is tested. A small signal with wavelength of 1530 nm can be amplified with amplification up to 14 dB/m and SNR of 18.8, if a pumping laser of wavelength 980 nm and driving current 400 mA is used. A higher amplification is expected if a more intense pumping laser is supplied. The erbium doped fiber amplifier proves efficient and concise in amplifying signals around 1550 nm.