Free-Space Communications Enabled by Quantum Cascade Lasers
Journal article, 2021

Future generations of wireless communication systems are expected to support orders of magnitude faster data transfer with much lower latency than the currently deployed solutions. Development of wireless transceivers of higher bandwidth, low energy consumption, and small footprint becomes challenging with radio frequency (RF) electronic technologies. Photonics-assisted technologies show many advantages in generating signals of ultrabroad bandwidth at high carrier frequencies in the millimeter-wave, terahertz, and IR bands. Among these frequency options, the mid-IR band has recently attracted great interest for future wireless communication due to its intrinsic merits of low propagation loss and high tolerance of atmospheric perturbations. A promising source for mid-IR free-space communications is the semiconductor quantum cascade laser (QCL), which can be directly modulated at a high speed and facilitates monolithic integration for compact transceivers. Herein, the research and development of QCL-based free-space communications are reviewed and a recent experimental study of multi-gigabit transmission with a directly modulated mid-IR QCL and a commercial off-the-shelf IR photodetector is reported on. Up to 4 Gb s(-1)transmission of two advanced modulation formats, namely, four-level pulse amplitude modulation (PAM-4) and discrete multitone (DMT) modulation, is demonstrated.

pulse amplitude modulation

semiconductor lasers

quantum-cascade lasers

discrete multitone modulation

free-space optical communication


Xiaodan Pang

Royal Institute of Technology (KTH)

Oskars Ozolins

Royal Institute of Technology (KTH)

RISE Research Institutes of Sweden

Lu Zhang

Key Laboratory of Automobile Safety Technology

Zhejiang University

Richard Schatz

Royal Institute of Technology (KTH)

Aleksejs Udalcovs

RISE Research Institutes of Sweden

Xianbin Yu

Zhejiang University

Key Laboratory of Automobile Safety Technology

Gunnar Jacobsen

RISE Research Institutes of Sweden

Sergei Popov

Royal Institute of Technology (KTH)

Jiajia Chen

Chalmers, Electrical Engineering, Communication and Antenna Systems, Optical Networks

Sebastian Lourdudoss

Royal Institute of Technology (KTH)

Physica Status Solidi (A) Applications and Materials

1862-6300 (ISSN) 1862-6319 (eISSN)

Vol. 218 3 2000407

Subject Categories


Communication Systems

Other Electrical Engineering, Electronic Engineering, Information Engineering



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