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5 Modulation of Light

5.0 General comments

Modulation is needed in communication systems
Intensity, Phase and Frequency modulation
Internal and External modulation
Electro-optic, Magneto-optic and Acousto-optic

5.1 Electro-optic Modulation

Fig. 5.1: A steady electric field applied to an electro-optic material

changes its refractive index. This, in turn, changes the effect of
the material on light traveling through it. The electric field
therefore controls the light.

The dependence of the refractive index on the applied

electric field takes one of two forms:
9 The refractive index changes in proportion to the applied
electric field, in which case the effect is known as the
linear electro-optic effect or the Pockels effect.
9 The refractive index changes in proportion to the square
of the applied electric field, in which case the effect is
known as the quadratic electro-optic effect or the Kerr

A. Pockels and Kerr Effects

n(E) can be expanded in a Taylors series about E = 0,

n(E ) = n + a1 E +

a 2 E 2 + ...,


r = 2a1 / n3 and = a2/n3 are known as the electro-optic

1 3
1 3 2
n(E ) = n rn E + n E + ...,


Pockels Effects
For 0,

1 3
n(E ) n rn E


Pockels coefficient or the linear electro-optic coefficient
Typical values of r :
Range 10-12 to 10-10 m/V, very small
Common crystals used as Pockels cells:
NH4H2PO4 (ADP), KH2PO4 (KDP), LiNbO3, LiTaO3, and CdTe.

Kerr Effect
For r 0,

1 3 2
n E n n E


Kerr coefficient or the quadratic electro-optic coefficient
Typical Values of :
10-18 to 10-14 m2/V2 in crystals and 10-22 to 10-19 m2/V2 in liquids
Kerr cell (or medium):
centrosymmetric, materials such as gases, liquids, and certain

B. Electro-Optic Modulators
Phased Modulators
When a beam of light traverse a Pockels cell of length L to which an electric field
E is applied, it undergoes a phase shift = n(E)k0L = 2n(E)L/0, where 0 is the
free-space wavelength.

rn 3 EL
= 0


where 0=2nL/0. If the electric field is obtained by applying a voltage V across

two faces of the cell separated by distance d (Fig. 5.3b), then E=V/d, and (5-5)

= 0



d 0
V =
L xn 3

Phased Modulation

Half-Wave Voltage

Transverse and Longitudinal modulators

Fig. 5.3: (a) Longitudinal modulator. The electrodes may take the shape of
washers or bands, or may be transparent conductors. (b)
Transverse modulator. (c) Traveling-wave transverse modulator.


Modulation bandwidth limited by transit time is

Integrated optic phase modulator

Smaller half-wave voltage (~ 102)
Higher speed ( > 100 GHz demonstrated)

Fig. 5.4: An integrated-optical phase modulator using the electro-optic effect.

Dynamic Wave Retarders

For anisotropic medium that exhibits the Pockels effect.
r1 n1 E ,
n 2 (E ) n 2 r2 n 2 E ,

n1 (E ) n1


where r1 and r2 are respectively the Pockels coefficients for two polarization states.
Phase retardation after traveling a distance L,

k 0 r1 n1 r2 n 2 EL
3 V
= k 0 (n1 n2 )L k 0 r1n1 r2 n2
= 0

= k 0 [n1 (E ) n 2 (E )]L = k 0 (n1 n 2 )L


V =

L r1 n13 r2 n2 3



Half-Wave Voltage

Intensity Modulators: Use of a Phase Modulator in an Interferometer

Fig. 5.5: A phase modulator placed in one branch pf a Mach-Zehnder interferometer can serve
as an intensity modulator. The transmittance of the interferometer T (V) = I0/ Ii varies
periodically with the applied voltage V. By operating in a limited region near point B,
the device acts as a linear intensity modulator. If V is switched between A and C, the
device serves as an optical switch.

I i (1 + cos ) = I i cos 2
= 1 2 = 0

I0 =

2 0
T (V ) = = cos
2 2 V


The Intensity shown in Fig. 5.5 can be used as a switch, how?

A Integrated optic Intensity Modulator

Fig. 5.6: An integrated-optical intensity modular (or optical switch). A MachZehnder interferometer and an electro-optic phase modulator are
implemented using optical waveguides fabricated from a material such as

Modulation speeds exceeding 25 GHz have been achieved

Intensity Modulators: Use of a Retarder Between Crossed Polarizers

Fig. 5.7:(a) An optical intensity modulator using a Pockels cell placed between crossed
polarizers at 45 degree with respect to the retarders axes.
(b) Optical transmittance versus applied voltage for and arbitrary value 0 for
linear operation the cell is biased near the point B.

0 V
T (V ) = sin
2 2 V


as shown in Fig. 5.7(b). By changing V, the transmittance can be varied

between 0 (shutter closed) and 1 (shutter open). The device can also be
used as a linear modulator if the system is operated in the region near T(V)
= 0.5. By selecting 0 = / 2 and V<<V,

T (V ) = sin 2
4 2 V
= T (0 ) +


v =0 V =


1 V

2 2 V

so that T(V) is a linear function with / 2V representing the sensitivity of

the modulator. The phase retardation 0 can be adjusted either optically (by
assisting the modulator with an additional phase retarder, a compensator) or
electrically by adding a constant bias voltage to V.

5.2 Magneto-optic Modulation

Faraday Effect



V is known as the Verdet constant.

Fig. 5.8: Polarization rotation in a medium exhibiting the Faraday effect. The sense rotation is invariant
to the direction of travel of the wave

The sense of rotation is governed by the direction of the magnetic field: only and does not
reverse with the reversal of the direction of propagation of the wave (Fig. 5.8). The
Verdet constant is a function of the wavelength 0.
Materials that exhibit the Faraday effect include glasses, yttrium-iron-garnet (YIG),
terbium-gallium-garnet (TGG), and terbium-aluminum garnet (TbAIG).
A polarization rotator rotates the plane of polarization of linearly polarized light by a
fixed angle, maintaining its linearly polarized nature. Materials exhibiting the Faraday
effect acts as polarization rotators.

Optical Isolators

Fig. 5.9: An optical isolator using a Faraday rotator transmits light in one direction, as in (a), and
blocks light in the opposite direction, as in (b).

Faraday-rotator isolators made of yttrium-iron-garnet (YIG) or terbiumgallium-garnet (TGG), for example, can offer an attenuation of the backward
wave up to 90 dB, over a relatively wide wavelength range.

5.3 Acousto-optic Modulation

Acousto-optic effect
The refractive index of an optical medium is altered by the presence of sound.
Sound therefore modifies the effect of the medium on light; i.e., sound can
control light (Fig. 5.10)

Fig. 5.10: Sound modifies the effect of an optical medium on light

Fig. 5.11: Variation of the refractive index accompanying a harmonic sound wave. The pattern
has a period , the wavelength of sound, and travels with the velocity of sound.

The variations of the refractive index in a medium perturbed by sound are

usually very slow in comparison with an optical period.
The material can be regarded as quasi-stationary, and acousto-optics becomes
the optics of an inhomogeneous medium (usually periodic) that is controlled by

Basics of light-sound interaction

Fig. 7.12: Bragg diffraction: an acoustic plane wave acts as a partial reflector of light (a beamsplitter)
when the angle of incidence satisfies the Bragg condition.

Bragg Condition

sin B =


where is the wavelength of light in the medium.


R = 2 n

L2 2

0 4

I s


The reflectance is therefore proportional to the intensity of the acoustic wave Is,
to the parameter that depends on the acoustic property of the material. The
reflectance is inversely proportional to 4 (or directly proportional to 4). L is the
interaction length and n is the refractive index of the material.

Example: Bragg Angle

An acousto-optic cell is made of flint glass in which the sound
velocity is s = 3 km/s and the refractive index is n = 1.95. The
Bragg angle for reflection of an optical wave of free-space
wavelength 0 = 633 nm ( = 0 /n = 325 nm) from a sound
wave of frequency f = 100 MHz ( = s /f = 30m) is B = 5.4
mrad = 0.31 degree. This angle is internal (i.e., inside the
medium). If the cell is placed in air, B corresponds to an
external angle B = nB = 0.61 degree. A sound wave of 10
times greater frequency (f = 1GHz) corresponds to a Bragg
angle B = 3.1 degree.

Acouto-Optic Devices
The intensity of the reflected light in a Bragg cell is proportional to the intensity of
sound and can be used as a linear analog modulator of light (5.13(a)).
As the acoustic power increases, however, saturation occurs and almost total reflection
can be achieved. The modulator then serves as an optical switch (Fig. 5.14 (b)).

Fig. 5.14: (a) An acousto-optic modulator. The intensity of the reflected light is
proportional to the intensity of sound. (b) An acousto-optic switch.

Modulation Bandwidth

= sin

= sin

2 s 2 s


Fig. 5.15: The waveform of an amplitude-modulated acoustic signal and its spectrum.

As =

(2 / s )B
2 /



the bandwidth of the modulator is therefore

B = s


Fig. 5.17: Interaction of an optical beam of angular divergence with an acoustic plane wave
of frequency in the band f0 B. There are many parallel q vectors of different lengths
each matching a direction of the incident light.

5 Problems
Response Time of a Phase Modulator
A GaAs crystal with refractive index n = 3.6 and electro-optic coefficient
r = 1.6 pm/V is used as an electro-optic phase modulator operating at 0 =
1.3 m in the longitudinal configuration. The crystal is 3 cm long and has
a 1 cm2 cross-sectional area. Determine the half-eave voltage V, the
transit time of light through the crystal, and the electric capacitance of the
device (the dielectric constant of GaAs is / 0 =13.5). The voltage is
applied using a source with 50 resistance. Which factor limits the speed
of the device, the transit time of the light through the crystal or the
response time of the electric circuit?

5 Problems
Sensitivity of an Interferometric Electro-Optic Intensity Modulator
An integrated-optic intensity modulator using the Mach-Zehnder configuration,
illustrated in Fig. 5.6, is used as a linear analog modulator. If the half-wave
voltage is V = 10 V, what is the sensitivity of the device (the incremental
change of the intensity transmittance per unit incremental change of the
applied voltage)?

5 Problems
An Elasto-Optic Strain Sensor
An elasto-optic material exhibits a change of the refractive index proportional to
the strain. Design a strain sensor based on this effect. Consider an integratedoptic implementation. If the material is also electro-optic, consider a design
based on compensating the elasto-optic and the electro-optic refractive index
change, and measuring the electric field that nulls the reading of the
photodetector in a Mach-Zehnder interferometer.

5 Problems
Magneto-Optic Modulator
Describes how a Faraday rotator may be used as an optical intensity modulator.

5 Problems
Parameters of Acousto-Optic Modulators
Determine the Bragg angle and the maxi-mum bandwidth of the following
acousto-optic modulators:
Modulator 1

Fused quartz (n = 1.46, s = 6 km/s)


Frequency f = 50MHz


He-Ne laser, wavelength 0 = 633 nm, angular

divergence = 1 mrad


Tellurium (n = 4.8, s = 2.2 km/s)


Frequency f = 100MHz


CO2 laser, wavelength 0 = 10.6 m, and beam

width D = 1 mm

Modulator 2