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Mach-Zehnder: A Review of Bias Control Techniques for Mach-Zehnder Modulators in Photonic Analog Links

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5 Author(s)
Yejun Fu ; Adv. Photonic Syst. Lab., Concordia Univ., Montreal, QC, Canada ; Xiupu Zhang ; Bouchaib Hraimel ; Taijun Liu
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The Mach-Zehnder modulator (MZM) has been widely used for broadband photonic analog links and high-speed digital optical fiber communication systems because it possesses large modulation bandwidth, low driving voltage, and low chirp. The MZM is a very important optical modulator for photonic applications. In an MZM, the input light is split into two paths, each of which is modulated by an electrical signal. Then the two arms are combined to generate an intensity-modulated light or a phase-modulated light at the output of the MZM. An MZM can be made of lithium niobate (LiNbO3), gallium arsenide (GaAs), or indium phosphide (InP), materials that exhibit some anisotropy in their dielectric properties. Theoretically, the relation of output optical field and driving voltage is a cosine function, i.e., nonlinear transfer function. For RF photonics, the MZM has typically two applications: optical harmonic generation for optical frequency multiplication and optical subcarrier modulation for optical signal modulation. For optical frequency multiplication, high transfer-function nonlinearity is preferred. In contrast, high transfer-function linearity is preferred for optical subcarrier modulation. It is well known that a cosine transfer function can present high or low nonlinearity dependent on operation voltage. Specifically, bias voltages determine the degree of nonlinearity or linearity of the MZM transfer function. For optical frequency multiplication such as millimeter-wave generation, the MZM should be biased at some specific bias points, such as minimum transmission, maximum transmission, and quadrature bias points, to enhance nonlinearity [1]?[2]. For optical subcarrier modulation, biasing an MZM in its linear region such as quadrature bias points allows transmitting broadband RF signals with multioctave bandwidth and improves spurious free dynamic range (SFDR). Therefore, care must be taken to maintain and control the MZM bias point for a specific applicat- on.

Published in:

IEEE Microwave Magazine  (Volume:14 ,  Issue: 7 )