Controlled dopant diffusion for fiber optic coupler
Uniformity of optical coupling of optical elements such as couplers and splitters is improved by heat treatment which causes dopants in the core of an optical fiber to diffuse into material from the cladding layer of the optical fibers from which the optical element is formed, resulting in a substantially homogeneous interior region of the star coupler or splitter. Increased lossiness of the optical element thus formed may be limited by termination of the heat treatment before dopant diffusion reaches equilibrium throughout the fibers so that a portion of the cladding layer of the fibers remains surrounding the substantially homogeneous region where the fibers have been fused together. Dopant diffusion is constrained to a substantially radial direction in each fiber by uniformity of heating over a region where at least two fibers are twisted together. Thus dopant diffusion is highly repeatable and can be readily regulated to provide highly selective, wavelength-dependent coupling between fibers, particularly for multiplexing and demultiplexing applications.