Optical free-space communications at middle infra-red wavelengths

Rainer Martini, Chris Glazowski, Edward A. Whittaker, Warren W. Harper, Yin Fong Su, John F. Shultz, Claire F. Gmachl, Federico Capasso, Deborah L. Sivco, Alfred Y. Cho

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


We consider the application of mid-infrared (MIR) wavelength quantum cascade lasers (QCL) as sources for free-space optical communications. QCL's possess high modulation bandwidth and excellent optical performance in the atmospherically transparent MIR spectral range. In order to investigate this potential application area, we have performed a series of comparative evaluations on analog and digital free-space optical links operating in the near-infrared (NIR) (830nm, 1300nm and 1550nm) and mid-infrared (8μm). The measurements were made using well controlled atmospheric conditions in the 65ft long Pacific Northwest National Laboratory's Aerosol Wind Tunnel Research Facility using water vapor, oil vapor and dust as the scattering media. We measured the transmitted intensity as a function of the density of scatterers in the tunnel. We also performed bit error rate analysis of signals transmitted at the DS-3 data rate. The QCL link consistently showed a higher performance level when compared to the NIR links for water fog, oil fog and dust scattering.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)196-202
Number of pages7
JournalProceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering
StatePublished - 2004
EventQuantum Sensing and Nanophotonic Devices - San Jose, CA, United States
Duration: Jan 25 2004Jan 29 2004

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Applied Mathematics
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


  • Atmospheric optical propagation
  • Infrared spectroscopy
  • Optical communications
  • Semiconductor lasers


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