Marco Piccardo, Dmitry Kazakov, Noah A. Rubin, Paul Chevalier, Yongrui Wang, Feng Xie, Kevin Lascola, Alexey Belyanin, and Federico Capasso
In standing-wave lasers, spatial hole burning induces a static grating of the population inversion, enabling multimode operation with several independent lasing modes. In the presence of a mode-locking mechanism, these modes may become correlated, giving origin to a frequency comb. Quantum cascade lasers, owing to their ultrafast gain dynamics, are ideally suited to achieve comb operation. Here we experimentally demonstrate that the modes of a quantum cascade laser frequency comb coherently beat to produce time-dependent population inversion gratings, which spatially modulate the current in the device at frequencies equal to the mode separation and its higher harmonics. This phenomenon allows the laser to serve as a phased collection of microwave local oscillators and is utilized to demonstrate quadrature amplitude modulation, a staple of modern communications. These findings may provide for a new class of integrated transmitters, potentially extending from the microwave to the low terahertz band.
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