Ultrafast laser inscription in ZBLAN integrated optics chips for mid-IR beam combination in astronomical interferometry

Jan Tepper*, Lucas Labadie, Simon Gross, Alexander Arriola, Stefano Minardi, Romina Diener, Michael J. Withford

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Astronomical interferometry is a unique technique that allows observation with angular resolutions on the milliarcsec scale by combining the light of several apertures hundreds of meters apart. The PIONIER and GRAVITY instruments at the Very Large Telescope Interferometer have demonstrated that silica-based integrated optics (IO) provide a small-scale and highly stable solution for the interferometric beam combination process. Yet, important science cases such as exoplanet hunting or the spectroscopic characterization of exoplanetary atmospheres are favorable for observation in the mid-IR, namely the atmospheric windows L and L′ band (3-4 µm), a wavelength range that is not covered by conventional silica-based IO. Here, we propose laser-inscribed IO 2x2 couplers in ZBLAN and experimentally assess the critical properties of the component for broadband mid-IR interferometry. We measure the splitting ratio over the 2.5 to 5.0 µm range and find excellent broadband contrast over the L (3.1-3.6 µm) and L′ (3.6-4.0 µm) bands. Furthermore, we quantify the dispersion properties of the coupler and find a phase variation as low as 0.02 rad across the L and L′ band, respectively. By optimizing the NA of our injection beam, we measured a very high total throughput of 58% over the L band including Fresnel reflection and coupling losses. We also compare our findings to recent advances in mid-IR IO in GLS and discuss its advantages and disadvantages for the implementation in future mid-IR interferometers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)20642-20653
Number of pages12
JournalOptics Express
Issue number17
Publication statusPublished - 21 Aug 2017


  • Integrated optics devices
  • Integrated optics materials
  • Glass and other amorphous materials
  • Microstructure fabrication
  • Waveguides
  • Fringe analysis
  • Interferometry
  • Phase measurement


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