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Definition: the dependence of the phase velocity in a medium on the optical frequency or the propagation mode
There are various different types of dispersion, which all involve the dependence of the phase velocity or phase delay of light in some medium or device on some other parameter:
- Chromatic dispersion means that the phase velocity depends on the optical frequency or wavelength. This can result from a frequency-dependent refractive index, but also from waveguide dispersion.
- Intermodal dispersion results from different propagation characteristics of higher-order transverse modes in waveguides, such as multimode fibers. This effect can severely limit the possible data rate of a system for optical fiber communications based on multimode fibers.
- Polarization mode dispersion results from polarization-dependent propagation characteristics. It can be relevant in high data rate fiber-optic links based on single-mode fibers.
- As a result of chromatic dispersion, refraction angles at optical surfaces can be frequency-dependent, leading to angular dispersion. This effect can subsequently lead to frequency-dependent path lengths, which can again act like chromatic dispersion. This is exploited e.g. in prism pairs or pairs of diffraction gratings for dispersion compensation. Angular dispersion is also related to the phenomenon of pulse front tilt.
This encyclopedia is authored by Dr. Rüdiger Paschotta, the founder and executive of RP Photonics Consulting GmbH. Contact this distinguished expert in laser technology, nonlinear optics and fiber optics, and find out how his technical consulting services (e.g. product designs, problem solving, independent evaluations, or staff training) could become very valuable for your business!