Research ArticleOPTICS

Parity-time–symmetric optoelectronic oscillator

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Science Advances  08 Jun 2018:
Vol. 4, no. 6, eaar6782
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aar6782

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An optoelectronic oscillator (OEO) is a hybrid microwave and photonic system incorporating an amplified positive feedback loop to enable microwave oscillation to generate a high-frequency and low–phase noise microwave signal. The low phase noise is ensured by the high Q factor of the feedback loop enabled by the use of a long and low-loss optical fiber. However, an OEO with a long fiber loop would have a small free spectral range, leading to a large number of closely spaced oscillation modes. To ensure single-mode oscillation, an ultranarrowband optical filter must be used, but such an optical filter is hard to implement and the stability is poor. Here, we use a novel concept to achieve single-mode oscillation without using an ultranarrowband optical filter. The single-mode operation is achieved based on parity-time (PT) symmetry by using two identical feedback loops, with one having a gain and the other having a loss of the same magnitude. The operation is analyzed theoretically and verified by an experiment. Stable single-mode oscillation at an ultralow phase noise is achieved without the use of an ultranarrowband optical filter. The use of PT symmetry in an OEO overcomes the long-existing mode-selection challenge that would greatly simplify the implementation of OEOs for ultralow–phase noise microwave generation.

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