Optical Fiber Microstructures for Self-Contained Whispering Gallery Mode Excitation

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Virginia Tech

Optical resonators, which confine light by resonant recirculation, serve as the basis for a wide variety of optical components. Though they appear in many geometric forms, the most effective of optical resonators show axial symmetry in at least one dimension. A popular variation that finds broad application is the dielectric sphere. Acclaimed for their high quality (Q) factor and small modal volume, spheres owe credit of these attractive features to their support of whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonances. The sensitivity of a resonance's frequency and Q to strain, temperature, and other parameters of the surrounding medium can be the basis for ultracompact modulators and sensors.

Physically, WGMs are special optical modes which can be understood as light rays that orbit the equator of the sphere guided by total internal reflection. Like a smooth stone can be skipped along the surface of a pond, light can be confined to the inside of a sphere by successive reflections. To best excite WGMs, the source light should initially trace a line tangent to the sphere's circumference. But incorporating a tiny sphere with such nanometric tolerances into a practical sensor structure has its challenges and the prospects for microsphere applications have suffered because of the plight of this problem.

The work in this dissertation details the fabrication and function of three new "press fit" spherical resonators. These etched fiber micro-devices were developed to meet the demand for a robust, self-integrated means of coupling light between an optical fiber and WGMs in a microsphere resonator. The etching processes have been tuned to enable secure storage of a microsphere while also providing efficient excitation and interrogation of WGMs. Furthermore, the methods have been designed to be staightforward, quick, and repeatable. Using standard etchants on common polarization-maintaining fiber with readily purchased microspheres, the press fit resonators demonstrated here can be batch-fabricated and assembled. The press fit spherical resonator offers an alignment-free and conveniently pigtailed WGM coupler that has great potential for bio-science sensing applications and studies of resonant bispheres.

Resonators, Whispering Gallery Modes, Fiber Optics Sensors, Micro-devices, Micro-fabrication, Wet Chemical Etching