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A Raman amplifier is an optical amplifier based on Raman gain, which results from the effect of stimulated Raman scattering. The Raman-active medium is often an optical fiber, although it can also be a bulk crystal, a waveguide in a photonic integrated circuit, or a cell with a gas or liquid medium. An input signal can be amplified while co- or counterpropagating with a pump beam, the wavelength of which is typically a few tens of nanometers shorter. For silica fibers, maximum gain is obtained for a frequency offset of ≈ 10–15 THz between pump and signal, depending on the composition of the fiber core.
For application in telecom systems, fiber Raman amplifiers compete with erbium-doped fiber amplifiers. Compared with those, their typical features are:
- Raman amplifiers can be operated in very different wavelength regions, provided that a suitable pump source is available.
- The gain spectrum can be tailored by using different pump wavelengths simultaneously.
- A Raman amplifier requires high pump power (possibly raising laser safety issues) and high pump brightness, but it can also generate high output powers.
- A greater length of fiber is required. However, the transmission fiber in a telecom system may be used, so that no additional fiber is required.
- Raman fiber amplifiers can have a lower noise figure. On the other hand, they more directly couple pump noise to the signal than laser amplifiers do.
- They also have a fast reaction to changes of the pump power, particularly for co-propagating pump, and very different saturation characteristics.
- If the pump wavelength is polarized, the Raman gain is polarization-dependent. This effect is often unwanted, but can be suppressed e.g. by using two polarization-coupled pump diodes or a pump depolarizer.
A telecom Raman amplifier is pumped with continuous-wave light from a diode laser. Efficient amplification of ultrashort pulses is also possible using copropagating pump pulses. However, the phenomenon of group velocity mismatch then severely limits the useful interaction length, particularly for pulse durations below 1 ps.
Fibers used for Raman amplifiers are not doped with rare earth ions. In principle, any ordinary single-mode fiber could be used, and in practice the transmission fibers themselves are often suitable (→ distributed amplifiers). However, there are special fibers with increased Raman gain, resulting from certain dopants (e.g. germania) for enhanced Raman cross sections, or simply from a small effective mode area. Such fibers are used for lumped Raman amplifiers, where a shorter piece of fiber is dedicated to amplification only.
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See also: Raman scattering, Raman lasers, Raman gain, amplifiers, distributed amplifiers, fiber amplifiers, fibers, nonlinearities, noise figure
and other articles in the categories optical amplifiers, lightwave communications, fiber optics and waveguides, nonlinear optics
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