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Parabolic Pulses

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Definition: pulses with a parabolic intensity profile

German: parabolische Pulse

Categories: nonlinear optics, light pulses

How to cite the article; suggest additional literature

the design of fiber amplifiers, including the modeling of pulse propagation for design optimization in an early phase of development.

A parabolic pulse is an optical pulse (usually an ultrashort pulse) that has a temporal intensity profile with a parabolic shape – not only near the pulse center, but also well towards the wings up to the point where the intensity goes to zero. In the ideal case, the pulse would have an intensity profile according to

parabolic intensity profile

Figure 1 shows an approximately parabolic pulse, as it can result from pulse propagation in a fiber amplifier under certain circumstances. Parabolic pulses have a number of remarkable properties, which have turned out to be particularly important in the context of fiber amplifiers for generating high-energy ultrashort pulses.

parabolic pulse

Figure 1: Temporal profile of a nearly parabolic pulse, such as can be generated in a fiber amplifier fed with Gaussian pulses. Such simulations can be made with the software RP Fiber Power.

Up-chirped parabolic pulses can be generated in a fiber amplifier where the amplified pulses not only experience optical gain, but also the Kerr nonlinearity and normal chromatic dispersion. In this situation, a chirped parabolic pulse is the asymptotic solution for long propagation lengths [3, 8]. After a sufficiently long propagation length, associated with a sufficiently large amplification factor, the shape of the resulting pulses no longer depends on the shape or duration of the seed pulses, and the peak power and duration after a long propagation length depend only on the seed pulse energy. This is a case of self-similar pulse propagation, since the parabolic pulse shape, although not the pulse duration, is preserved. Therefore, such pulses are sometimes called similaritons. The pulse duration parameter is

duration of asymptotic parabolic pulse

where g is the exponential gain coefficient, and the full bandwidth (not the full width at half maximum) is

bandwidth of asymptotic parabolic pulse

Both grow with the cubic root of the pulse energy Ep, so that the time–bandwidth product of the pulses grows in proportion to Ep2/3.

The pulses have a very nearly linear up-chirp, i.e., a linearly rising instantaneous frequency, with a growth rate of the instantaneous frequency which is independent of the pulse energy:

frequency slope of asymptotic parabolic rate

Calculator for Parabolic Pulses

Dispersion: (1 fs2 = 1e-30 s2)
Pulse energy: calc
Pulse duration: calc
Chirp: calc

Enter input values with units, where appropriate. After you have modified some values, click a "calc" button to recalculate the field left of it.

The default values in this form correspond to a pulse energy of 1 nJ in the diagram below.

With increasing propagation length, the peak power rises in proportion to Ep2/3. The chirp rate (in THz/ps) approaches a constant value, which is determined only by the fiber dispersion and gain per unit length. The spectral bandwidth rises in proportion to the pulse duration, i.e., in proportion to Ep1/3.

evolution of pulse duration

Figure 2: Evolution of the pulse duration in a hypothetical amplifier with infinite gain bandwidth. The solid curves show the pulse duration in the amplifier (blue) and after a compressor with optimized GDD (red). The dashed curve shows the asymptotic values, which in this case are reached after ≈ 20 dB of amplification.

Depending on the input pulse parameters, in particular on the pulse duration and energy, the parabolic evolution may set in only after some amount of linear amplification. Therefore, the pulse duration and bandwidth do not necessarily rise by orders of magnitude even if the pulse energy is increased by several orders of magnitude. This is shown in Figure 2, where the seed pulses had 10 pJ energy and 500 fs duration. Initially, the amplification is nearly linear, but then both the bandwidth and pulse duration begin to rise significantly. Due to the increased bandwidth, dispersively compressed pulses can be significantly shorter than the initial pulses.

Note that the limited gain bandwidth of a real fiber amplifier limits the pulse energy range in which parabolic pulse amplification is possible. The parameters in Figure 2 go far beyond that limit.

Attractions of Parabolic Pulse Amplification

The remarkable properties of parabolic pulses lead to a number of technologically attractive features of fiber amplifiers for ultrashort pulses, when they are designed as “parabolic amplifiers”:

Limitations arise from the following effects:

To find an optimized design of a parabolic amplifier, it is advisable to study its behavior with numerical pulse propagation modeling, including the potentially disturbing effects mentioned above.

The principle of parabolic pulse amplification has also been applied to mode-locked fiber lasers [6] (similariton fiber lasers). Here, the spectral width of the circulating pulse is strongly oscillating: it increases during amplification but is reset in every round trip by some optical filter. This approach makes it possible to reach significantly higher pulse energies with potentially cheap fiber laser sources.


[1]D. Anderson et al., “Wave-breaking-free pulses in nonlinear-optical fibers”, J. Opt. Soc. Am. B 10 (7), 1185 (1993)
[2]K. Tamura and M. Nakazawa, “Pulse compression by nonlinear pulse evolution with reduced optical wave breaking in erbium-doped fiber amplifiers”, Opt. Lett. 21 (1), 68 (1996)
[3]M. E. Fermann et al., “Self-similar propagation and amplification of parabolic pulses in optical fibers”, Phys. Rev. Lett. 84 (26), 6010 (2000)
[4]V. I. Kruglov et al., “Self-similar propagation of high-power parabolic pulses in optical fiber amplifiers”, Opt. Lett. 25 (24), 1753 (2000)
[5]T. Hirooka and M. Nakazawa, “Parabolic pulse generation by use of a dispersion-decreasing fiber with normal group-velocity dispersion”, Opt. Express 29 (5), 498 (2004)
[6]F. Ö. Ilday et al., “Self-similar evolution of parabolic pulses in a laser”, Phys. Rev. Lett. 92 (21), 213902 (2004)
[7]C. K. Nielsen et al., “Self-starting self-similar all-polarization maintaining Yb-doped fiber laser”, Opt. Express 13 (23), 9346 (2005)
[8]V. I. Kruglov and J. D. Harvey, “Asymptotically exact parabolic solutions of the generalized nonlinear Schrödinger equation with varying parameters”, J. Opt. Soc. Am. B 23 (12), 2541 (2006)
[9]T. Schreiber et al., “Microjoule-level all-polarization-maintaining femtosecond fiber source”, Opt. Lett. 31 (5), 574 (2006)
[10]A. Ruehl et al., “Dynamics of parabolic pulses in an ultrafast fiber laser”, Opt. Lett. 31 (18), 2734 (2006)
[11]J. M. Dudley et al., “Self-similarity and scaling phenomena in nonlinear ultrafast optics”, Nature Phys. 3, 597 (2007)
[12]D. N. Papadopoulos et al., “Generation of 63 fs 4.1 MW peak power pulses from a parabolic fiber amplifier operated beyond the gain bandwidth limit”, Opt. Lett. 23 (17), 2520 (2007)
[13]R. Paschotta, case study on parabolic pulses in an ytterbium-doped fiber amplifier
[14]R. Paschotta, tutorial on "Fiber Amplifiers", part 8 on ultrafast amplifiers

(Suggest additional literature!)

See also: fiber amplifiers, nonlinearities, chirped-pulse amplification, pulse compression, pulse propagation modeling
and other articles in the categories nonlinear optics, light pulses

Dr. R. Paschotta

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) and software could become very valuable for your business!

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