A world first: Five Télécom ParisTech, mirSense and CentraleSupélec researchers open up a new era in the field of Photonics.


The very first observation of chaos in mid-infrared optical radiation has just been performed at Télécom ParisTech together with researchers from mirSense and CentraleSupélec.

This result makes a significant breakthrough for the photonic community working at these wavelengths. The discovery has just been published [1] in the journal Light: Sciences and Applications, published by Nature Publishing Group and classified as the second highest impact journal in optics by Thomson Reuters. Major industrial applications are expected in the field of optical communications and sensing.

Five French researchers have recently demonstrated the emergence of chaotic optical dynamics at mid-infrared wavelengths (MIR).    

This world first is the result of a successful co-operation between Télécom ParisTech and CentraleSupélec (within Paris-Saclay University and in partnership with the University of Lorraine) and the start-up MirSense.

This study was performed by a CNRS PhD student at Télécom ParisTech, Louise Jumpertz, supervised by Frédéric Grillot, Télécom ParisTech, with assistance from Kevin Schires, Télécom ParisTech (laboratory LTCI [Laboratory for Information Processing and Communication], CNRS, Télécom ParisTech, Université Paris-Saclay]), Mathieu Carras, mirSense (start-up), and Marc Sciamanna, CentraleSupélec (laboratoire LMOPS [Laboratory of Optical Materials, Photonics and Systems], CentraleSupélec/University of Lorraine).

This very first observation of chaos in quantum cascade lasers was made possible particularly through the expertise in quantum engineering developed in the spin-off mirSense.

Key industrial applications in the field of communications are therefore revealed    
The permanent use of laser sources in the mid-infrared field (MIR) or the use of chaotic optical transmission in free-space communications is now possible. This will facilitate the security of directly transmitted data and the development of non-predictable sources for optical countermeasures. It is a paradigm shift in the understanding of light sources operating at these wavelengths.

Close-up of this discovery.
Semi-conductor lasers were invented in 1962 and are largely used in our daily life. They generate optical impulses carrying information in fibre-optic networks and enable us to transmit over distances and at ever larger data rates.

The observation of a chaotic dynamic was achieved by subjecting a quantum cascade laser (developed by mirSense) to optical feedback, that is to say, a part of the emitted light was reinjected into the laser.

Unlike “conventional” semi-conductor lasers, a quantum cascade laser behaves like a unipolar structure for which emission is achieved directly through inter-sub-band transition of a quantum confinement structure, combined with a multitude of heterostructures which allows efficient electron “recycling”.

Although these properties normally provide these lasers with a very high stability, the reinjection of only a small percentage of the emitted energy back into the laser was sufficient to destabilise the quantum cascade laser to chaos. The laser emission is then formed of chaotic pulses, which are therefore irregular in time and unpredictable.

This is a discovery which opens up a wide range of possibilities since the mid-infrared domain (MIR) combined with the transparent atmospheric window (3-μm and 10-μm) is involved in a very large number of applications: in direct optical communications, gas analysis (for the control of air pollution and for monitoring of industrial processes), in medicine (for assistance in diagnosis and for reconstructive surgery), as well as in the military field (in laser radar and countermeasures).

This world first has received diverse support from:
Direction Générale de l’Armement (DGA: General Directorate for Armament), Agence Nationale de la Recherche (ANR: National Research Agency), Fondation Supélec (Supélec Foundation), and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF - FEDER).   

 [1] Chaotic Light at Mid-Infrared Wavelength - Louise Jumpertz, Kevin Schires, Mathieu Carras,
Marc Sciamanna & Frédéric Grillot – Light: Science & Applications (2016) 5, e16088; doi: 10.1038/lsa.2016.88.

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