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Full-Field Spectroscopy at Megahertz-frame-rates: Application of Coherent Time-Stretch Transform


Outliers or rogue events are found extensively in our world and have incredible effects. Also called rare events, they arise in the distribution of wealth (e.g., Pareto index), finance, network traffic, ocean waves, and e-commerce (selling less of more). Interest in rare optical events exploded after the sighting of optical rogue waves in laboratory experiments at UCLA. Detecting such tail events in fast streams of information necessitates real-time measurements. The Coherent Time-Stretch Transform chirps a pulsed source of radiation so that its temporal envelope matches its spectral profile (analogous to the far field regime of spatial diffraction), and the mapped spectral electric field is slow enough to be captured by a real-time digitizer. Combining this technique with spectral encoding, the time stretch technique has enabled a new class of ultra-high performance spectrometers and cameras (30+ MHz), and analog-to-digital converters that have led to the discovery of optical rogue waves and detection of cancer cells in blood with one in a million sensitivity.

Conventionally, the Coherent Time-Stretch Transform maps the spectrum into the temporal electric field, but the time-dilation process along with inherent fiber losses results in reduction of peak power and loss of sensitivity, a problem exacerbated by extremely narrow molecular linewidths. The loss issue notwithstanding, in many cases the requisite dispersive optical device is not available. By extending the Coherent Time-Stretch Transform to the temporal near field, I have demonstrated, for the first time, phase-sensitive absorption spectroscopy of a gaseous sample at millions of frames per second. As the Coherent Time-Stretch Transform may capture both near and far field optical waves, it is a complete spectro-temporal optical characterization tool. This is manifested as an amplitude-dependent chirp, which implies the ability to measure the complex refractive index dispersion at megahertz frame rates. This technique is not only four orders of magnitude faster than even the fastest (kHz) spectrometers, but will also enable capture of real-time complex dielectric function dynamics of plasmas and chemical reactions (e.g. combustion). It also has applications in high-energy physics, biology, and monitoring fast high-throughput industrial processes.

Adding an electro-optic modulator to the Time-Stretch Transform yields time-to-time mapping of electrical waveforms. Known as TiSER, it is an analog slow-motion processor that uses light to reduce the bandwidth of broadband RF signals for capture by high-sensitivity analog-to-digital converters (ADC). However, the electro-optic modulator limits the electrical bandwidth of TiSER. To solve this, I introduced Optical Sideband-only Amplification, wherein electro-optically generated modulation (containing the RF information) is amplified at the expense of the carrier, addressing the two most important problems plaguing electro-optic modulators: (1) low RF bandwidth and (2) high required RF drive voltages. I demonstrated drive voltage reductions of 5x at 10 GHz and 10x at 50 GHz, while simultaneously increasing the RF bandwidth.

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