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As stated previously, a fiber optic transmitter is a hybrid electro-optic device. It converts electrical signals into optical signals and launches the optical signals into an optical fiber. A fiber optic transmitter consists of an interface circuit, a source drive circuit, and an optical source. The interface circuit accepts the incoming electrical signal and processes it to make it compatible with the source drive circuit. The source drive circuit intensity modulates the optical source by varying the current through it.

The optical signal is coupled into an optical fiber through the transmitter output interface.

Although semiconductor LEDs and LDs have many similarities, unique transmitter designs result from differences between LED and LD sources. Transmitter designs compensate for differences in optical output power, response time, linearity, and thermal behavior between LEDs and LDs to ensure proper system operation. Nonlinearities caused by junction heating in LEDs and mode instabilities in LDs necessitate the use of linearizing circuits within the transmitter in some cases.

Fiber optic transmitters using LDs require more complex circuitry than transmitters using LEDs. The basic requirement for digital systems is for drive circuitry to switch the optical output on and off at high speeds in response to logic voltage levels at the input of the source drive circuit.

Because LDs are threshold devices, LDs are supplied with a bias just below the threshold in the off state. This bias is often referred to as prebias. One reason for prebiasing the LD is to reduce the turn-on delay in digital systems.

Most LD transmitters contain output power control circuitry to compensate for temperature sensitivity. This circuitry maintains the LD output at a constant average value by adjusting the bias current of the laser. In most cases LED transmitters do not contain output power control circuitry. LD and LED transmitters may also contain cooling devices to maintain the source at a relatively constant temperature. Most LD transmitters either have an internal thermo electric cooler or require a relatively controlled external temperature.

Because LDs require more complex circuitry than LEDs, fiber optic transmitters using LDs are more expensive. For more information concerning fiber optic transmitters and their drive circuitry, refer to the reference material listed in appendix 2.

Transmitter output interfaces generally fall into two categories: optical connectors and optical fiber pigtails. Optical pigtails are attached to the transmitter optical source. This pigtail is generally routed out of the transmitter package as a coated fiber in a loose buffer tube or a single fiber cable. The pigtail is either soldered or epoxied to the transmitter package to provide fiber strain relief. The buffer tube or single fiber cable is also attached to the transmitter package to provide additional strain relief.

The transmitter output interface may consist of a fiber optical connector. The optical source may couple to the output optical connector through an intermediate optical fiber. One end of the optical fiber is attached to the source. The other end terminates in the transmitter optical output connector. The optical source may also couple to the output optical connector without an intermediate optical fiber. The optical source is placed within the transmitter package to launch power directly into the fiber of the mating optical connector. In some cases lenses are used to more efficiently couple light from the source into the mating optical connector.

Q.20 How does the source drive circuit intensity modulate the source?
Q.21 What is a prebias?
Q.22 Is the drive circuitry generally more complex for an LED or a laser diode? Why?
Q.23 What are the two types of output interfaces for fiber optic transmitters?

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