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Fluoride Fibers

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Ask RP Photonics about the design of fluoride fiber lasers. Dr. Paschotta has done extensive modeling of thulium-doped upconversion fluoride fiber lasers.

Definition: optical fibers based on fluoride glasses

German: Fluoridglasfasern

Categories: fiber optics and waveguides, optical materials

How to cite the article; suggest additional literature

Fluoride fibers are optical fibers based on fluoride glasses, e.g. fluoroaluminate or fluorozirconate glasses. The cations of such glasses are usually from heavy metals such as zirconium or lead. Fluorozirconate glasses (where ZrF4 is the major component) are a typical example, and among them ZBLAN glass (ZrF4-BaF2-LaF3-AlF3-NaF) is the most common. Such fibers can be doped with a number of rare earth ions for application in fiber lasers and amplifiers.

The heavy glass constituents lead to low phonon energies. The most important consequences of this are:

Compared with other fibers for mid-infrared transmission, fluoride fibers have a relatively low refractive index and low chromatic dispersion.

Applications of Fluoride Fibers

The initially envisaged application of fluoride fibers was optical fiber communications, because the intrinsic losses of a mid-IR fiber could in principle be lower than those of silica fibers, which are transparent only up to ≈ 2 μm. However, such low losses as those of silica fibers have not been achieved in practice, and the brittleness and high cost of fluoride fibers also did not support a commercialization in this direction. Later, the utility of fluoride fibers for various other applications was discovered. The first group of these applications again exploits the mid-infrared transparency of fluoride glasses; examples are mid-infrared spectroscopy, fiber-optic sensors, thermometry, and imaging. Also, fluoride fibers can be used to transport light e.g. for Er:YAG lasers at 2.9 μm, as required for medical applications e.g. in ophthalmology and dentistry. In that area, there are also oxide fibers as a possible alternative, in particular germanate glasses, which also contain heavy metals.

On the other hand, the largely suppressed multi-phonon transitions in fluoride glasses are very important for the realization of various kinds of fiber lasers and amplifiers, essentially because the upper-state lifetimes of various rare earth dopants become long enough for various laser transitions, particularly in upconversion lasers. For example, thulium-doped fluoride fibers can be used for blue upconversion lasers [6, 13, 14], and erbium-doped fluoride fibers for green upconversion lasers [4]. Praseodymium-doped fluoride fibers can be used in 1.3-μm amplifiers [7] and also for visible fiber lasers with red, orange, green or blue emission [3, 8, 10]. Erbium-doped fluoride glass can be used for realizing 3-μm fiber lasers [17], and also 1.5-μm amplifiers with a wider and flatter gain compared with that of silica-based erbium-doped fiber amplifiers (EDFAs) [16]. It is also possible to combine silica-based and fluoride fibers.

Problems with fluoride fibers are that they are expensive and difficult to handle due to their fragility (not allowing, e.g., strong bending) and (partly) limited chemical stability. Typically, they are hygroscopic.


[1]D. Tran et al., “Heavy metal fluoride glasses and fibers: A review”, J. Lightwave Technol. 2 (5), 566 (1984)
[2]W. J. Miniscalco et al., “1.3 μm fluoride fiber laser”, Electron. Lett. 24, 28 (1988)
[3]R. B. Smart et al., “CW room temperature upconversion lasing at blue, green and red wavelengths in infrared-pumped Pr3+-doped fluoride fibre”, Electron. Lett. 27 (14), 1307 (1991)
[4]T. J. Whitley et al., “Upconversion pumped green lasing in erbium doped fluorozirconate fibre”, Electron. Lett. 27 (20), 1785 (1991)
[5]J. Y. Allain et al., “Tunable cw lasing around 610, 635, 695, 715, 885 and 910 nm in praseodymium-doped fluorozirconate fibre”, Electron. Lett. 27, 189 (1991)
[6]S. G. Grubb et al., “CW room-temperature blue upconversion fibre laser”, Electron. Lett. 28, 1243 (1992)
[7]T. Whitley et al., “High output power from an efficient praseodymium-doped fluoride fiber amplifier”, IEEE Photon. Technol. Lett. 5 (4), 401 (1993)
[8]A. C. Tropper et al., “Analysis of blue and red laser performance of the infrared-pumped praseodymium-doped fluoride fiber laser”, J. Opt. Soc. Am. B 11 (5), 886 (1994)
[9]Y. Miyajima et al., “Rare-earth-doped fluoride fiber amplifiers and fiber lasers”, Opt. Fiber Technol. 1, 35 (1994)
[10]P. Xie and T. R. Gosnell, “Room-temperature upconversion fiber laser tunable in the red, orange, green, and blue spectral regions”, Opt. Lett. 20 (9), 1014 (1995)
[11]T. Sakamoto et al., “35-dB gain Tm-doped ZBLYAN fiber amplifier operating at 1.65 μm”, IEEE Photon. Technol. Lett. 8, 349 (1996)
 [12]H. M. Pask et al., “A Pr3+-doped ZBLAN fibre upconversion laser pumped by an Yb3+-doped silica fibre laser”, Opt. Commun. 134 (1–6), 139 (1997)
[13]R. Paschotta et al., “Characterization and modeling of thulium:ZBLAN blue upconversion fiber lasers”, J. Opt. Soc. Am. B 14 (5), 1213 (1997)
[14]R. Paschotta et al., “230 mW of blue light from a Tm-doped upconversion fibre laser”, IEEE J. Sel. Top. Quantum Electron. 3 (4), 1100 (1997) (invited paper)
[15]M. Poulain, “Fluoride glass fibers: applications and prospects”, Proc. SPIE 3416, 2 (1998)
 [16]J. F. Philipps et al., “Spectroscopic and lasing properties of Er3+:Yb3+-doped fluoride phosphate glasses”, Appl. Phys. B 72, 399 (2001)
[17]M. Pollnau and S. D. Jackson, “Erbium 3-μm fiber lasers”, IEEE J. Sel. Top. Quantum Electron. 7 (1), 30 (2001)
[18]J. F. Philipps et al., “Energy transfer and upconversion in erbium–ytterbium-doped fluoride phosphate glasses”, Appl. Phys. B 74 (3), 233 (2002)
[19]E. Heumann et al., “Semiconductor-laser-pumped high-power upconversion laser”, Appl. Phys. Lett. 88, 61108 (2006)
[20]H. Ebendorff-Heidepriem et al., “Fluoride glass microstructured optical fiber with large mode area and mid-infrared transmission”, Opt. Lett. 33 (23), 2861 (2008)

(Suggest additional literature!)

See also: fibers, rare-earth-doped fibers, fiber amplifiers, fiber lasers, silica fibers, multi-phonon transitions, quenching

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