AOFS 1060nm 1550nm

When light is diffracted at the traveling refractive index grating in an acousto-optic modulator, the diffracted light experiences a shift of optical frequency which is plus or minus the acoustic (or drive) frequency. That effect (which can be interpreted as a Doppler shift) is exploited in acousto-optic frequency shifters.

Drive frequencies are typically between some tens and hundreds of megahertz, rarely more than 1 GHz. The resulting change of optical wavelength is quite small. For larger frequency shifts, or for realizing very small frequency shifts (e.g. only a few MHz), one may cascade two or more devices. It is also possible to use a double pass through a single device in order to obtain twice the frequency shift.

Frequency shifters may either be operated with a fixed drive frequency, generating a fixed optical frequency offset, or with a variable drive frequency. In the latter case, one needs to consider the fact that the beam direction will change with the drive frequency; if that is detrimental, one may use methods to minimize such effects. It is also possible to operate a frequency shifter with several drive frequencies at the same time.

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