Dispersion management is a somewhat wider term than dispersion compensation, even though both are often used in the same way. Strictly, dispersion compensation should be understood as a method for canceling the chromatic dispersion of some optical element(s), whereas dispersion management is more generally the use of tailored dispersion properties in order to enhance some function.
Examples of dispersion management in different situations are:
- In a mode-locked laser operating at a wavelength around 1 μm or shorter, the intracavity optical elements often contribute normal chromatic dispersion. For optimum pulse generation, it is often beneficial to overcompensate the normal chromatic dispersion in order to utilize the regime of anomalous dispersion, where soliton effects can help to obtain shorter pulses (→ soliton mode locking), which may also have a higher pulse quality e.g. in terms of weak pedestals and high stability. If the wanted pulse duration is in the regime of tens of femtoseconds or less, it is usually also necessary to compensate carefully the higher-order dispersion, i.e., to control the group delay dispersion over a significant optical bandwidth.
- In a mode-locked fiber laser, dispersive and nonlinear effects can become so strong that the pulse parameters (including the pulse duration and chirp) vary significantly during each resonator round trip. With a suitable combination of fibers exhibiting normal and anomalous dispersion, a stretched-pulse fiber laser can be realized, which can generate pulses (dispersion-managed solitons) with significantly higher pulse energy than with, e.g., soliton mode locking.
- Similar effects can be used in optical fiber communications: a fiber-optic link consisting of a periodic arrangement of fibers with normal and anomalous dispersion can help to suppress nonlinear effects such as channel cross-talk via four-wave mixing. It is possible to suppress the Gordon–Haus timing jitter at the same time, if the average chromatic dispersion is zero.
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The RP Photonics Buyer's Guide contains 7 suppliers for dispersion management devices. Among them:
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