Generation of ultrastable microwaves via optical frequency division
Nature Photonics 5, 425 (2011). doi:10.1038/nphoton.2011.121
Authors: T. M. Fortier, M. S. Kirchner, F. Quinlan, J. Taylor, J. C. Bergquist, T. Rosenband, N. Lemke, A. Ludlow, Y. Jiang, C. W. Oates & S. A. Diddams
Abstract: There has been increased interest in the use and manipulation of optical fields to address the challenging problems that have traditionally been approached with microwave electronics. Some examples that benefit from the low transmission loss, agile modulation and large bandwidths accessible with coherent optical systems include signal distribution, arbitrary waveform generation and novel imaging1. We extend these advantages to demonstrate a microwave generator based on a high-quality-factor (Q) optical resonator and a frequency comb functioning as an optical-to-microwave divider. This provides a 10 GHz electrical signal with fractional frequency instability of ≤8 × 10−16 at 1 s, a value comparable to that produced by the best microwave oscillators, but without the need for cryogenic temperatures. Such a low-noise source can benefit radar systems2 and improve the bandwidth and resolution of communications and digital sampling systems3, and can also be valuable for large baseline interferometry4, precision spectroscopy and the realization of atomic time5, 6, 7.