News Column

Researchers Submit Patent Application, "Optical-Fiber Array and Method", for Approval

August 13, 2014



By a News Reporter-Staff News Editor at Defense & Aerospace Week -- From Washington, D.C., VerticalNews journalists report that a patent application by the inventors Hu, Yongdan (Bothell, WA); Lemaire, Charles A. (Apple Valley, MN), filed on August 6, 2013, was made available online on July 31, 2014.

The patent's assignee is Lockheed Martin Corporation.

News editors obtained the following quote from the background information supplied by the inventors: "Existing optical-fiber arrays are generally difficult to manufacture because of the required alignment precision between fibers. Many conventional fiber-array systems, like V-groove-based substrates that hold an array of fibers, also have limited power-handling capability. In addition, for applications such as spectral-beam combining, existing optical-fiber arrays present excessive optical aberrations from their extended source of light.

"U.S. Pat. No. 7,058,275 (hereinafter, 'Sezerman et al.'), titled 'STRESS RELIEF IN FIBRE OPTIC ARRAYS', issued Jun. 6, 2006, and is incorporated herein by reference. Sezerman et al. describe a mechanism for achieving symmetrical stress loads on operating optical fibers held in fiber-optic arrays that includes, in one embodiment, the provision of a pair of non-operating or dummy fibers, each located outboard of the outermost or curb fibers of the array. All of the fibers, whether operating or dummy, are held in corresponding grooves in a substrate.

"U.S. Pat. No. 6,402,390 (hereinafter, 'Anderson et al.'), titled 'V-GROOVE ADAPTERS FOR INTERCONNECTING OPTICAL CONDUCTORS', issued Jun. 11, 2002, and is incorporated herein by reference. Anderson et al. describe a V-groove adapter for interconnecting optical conductors that includes V-grooves that are precisely aligned with respect to one another to provide a desired alignment of the respective cores of the optical conductors received within the respective V-grooves.

"U.S. Pat. No. 7,738,751 (hereinafter, 'Minden et al.'), titled 'ALL-FIBER LASER COUPLER WITH HIGH STABILITY', issued Jun. 15, 2010, and is incorporated herein by reference. Minden et al. describe a plurality of optical fibers arranged in a close-packed hexagonal array having 1+3n(n+1) fibers with (3/2)(n.sup.2-n)+3 interferometrically dark fibers and (3/2)(n.sup.2+3n)-2 light fibers, where n is an integer greater than or equal to 1. Each optical fiber has a first end and a second end. The plurality of optical fibers are fused together along a section of each optical fiber proximate the first end of each optical fiber to form a fused section having a fiber axis. The fused section of the plurality of optical fibers is tapered to form a tapered region. A facet is at an end of the fused section. The facet is disposed in a direction perpendicular to the fiber axis.

"U.S. Pat. No. 5,907,436 titled 'Multilayer dielectric diffraction gratings' issued May 25, 1999 to Perry et al., and is incorporated herein by reference. This patent describes the design and fabrication of dielectric grating structures with high diffraction efficiency. The gratings have a multilayer structure of alternating index dielectric materials, with a grating structure on top of the multilayer, and obtain a diffraction grating of adjustable efficiency, and variable optical bandwidth.

"Other patents that can be used with or in the present invention include U.S. Pat. No. 6,172,812 (hereinafter, 'Haaland et al.'), titled 'ANTI-REFLECTION COATINGS AND COATED ARTICLES', issued Jan. 9, 2001; U.S. Pat. No. 6,406,197 (hereinafter, 'Okuda et al.'), titled 'OPTICAL FIBER COUPLER, A PROCESS FOR FABRICATING THE SAME AND AN OPTICAL AMPLIFIER USING THE SAME', issued Jun. 18, 2002; U.S. Pat. No. 6,178,779 (hereinafter, 'Drouart et al.'), titled 'BUTT WELDING OPTICAL FIBER PREFORMS WITH A PLASMA TORCH', issued Jan. 30, 2001; U.S. Pat. No. 7,416,347 (hereinafter, 'Livingston et al.'), titled 'OPTICAL FIBER ARRAY CONNECTIVITY SYSTEM WITH INDICIA TO FACILITATE CONNECTIVITY IN FOUR ORIENTATIONS FOR DUAL FUNCTIONALITY', issued Aug. 26, 2008; U.S. Pat. No. 7,707,541 (hereinafter, 'Abrams et al.'), titled 'SYSTEMS, MASKS, AND METHODS FOR PHOTOLITHOGRAPHY', issued Apr. 27, 2010; U.S. Pat. No. 6,614,965 (hereinafter, 'Yin'), titled 'EFFICIENT COUPLING OF OPTICAL FIBER TO OPTICAL COMPONENT', issued Sep. 2, 2003; U.S. Pat. No. 7,128,943 (hereinafter, 'Djeu'), titled 'METHODS FOR FABRICATING LENSES AT THE END OF OPTICAL FIBERS IN THE FAR FIELD OF THE FIBER APERTURE', issued Oct. 31, 2006; U.S. Pat. No. 3,728,117 (hereinafter, 'Heidenhain et al.'), titled 'OPTICAL DIFFRACTION GRID', issued Apr. 17, 1973; U.S. Pat. No. 4,895,790 (hereinafter, 'Swanson et al.'), titled 'HIGH-EFFICIENCY, MULTILEVEL, DIFFRACTIVE OPTICAL ELEMENTS', issued Jan. 23, 1990; U.S. Pat. No. 6,822,796 (hereinafter, 'Takada et al.'), titled 'DIFFRACTIVE OPTICAL ELEMENT', issued Nov. 23, 2004; U.S. Pat. No. 6,958,859 (hereinafter, 'Hoose et al.'), titled 'GRATING DEVICE WITH HIGH DIFFRACTION EFFICIENCY', issued Oct. 25, 2005; U.S. Pat. No. 7,680,170 (hereinafter, 'Hu et al.'), titled 'COUPLING DEVICES AND METHODS FOR STACKED LASER EMITTER ARRAYS', issued Mar. 16, 2010; which are each incorporated herein by reference. Each of these references describes optical systems and/or components that can be combined with and/or used in various embodiments of the present invention.

"There is a need for an improved optical-fiber array method and apparatus, particularly optical-fiber arrays having improved power handling and functionality."

As a supplement to the background information on this patent application, VerticalNews correspondents also obtained the inventors' summary information for this patent application: "In some embodiments, the present invention provides an apparatus that includes a plurality of optical fibers including a first optical fiber and a second optical fiber, wherein the first optical fiber is configured to transmit a first optical signal, and wherein the second optical fiber is configured to transmit a second optical signal, and a fiber-array plate (e.g., in some embodiments, a monolithic glass or fused-quartz plate) configured to receive the plurality of optical signals from the plurality of optical fibers and emit a composite output beam (in some embodiments, the composite output beam includes a plurality of output beams), wherein the fiber-array plate includes a first surface and a second surface, wherein the plurality of optical fibers are configured to connect to the first surface of the fiber-array plate (e.g., in some embodiments, the plurality of optical fibers are butt welded to the first surface of the fiber-array plate). In some embodiments, the first surface of the fiber-array plate includes indicia configured to assist in aligning the plurality of optical fibers on the fiber-array plate. In some embodiments, the apparatus includes beam-shaping structures (e.g., lenslets and/or diffractive surface or volume gratings) configured to shape the plurality of emitted output beams).

"In some embodiments, the present invention provides a method that includes providing a plurality of optical fibers including a first optical fiber and a second optical fiber, providing a fiber-array plate, wherein the fiber-array plate includes a first surface and a second surface, connecting the plurality of optical fibers to the first surface of the fiber-array plate (e.g., by fusing, butt welding, or the like), transmitting a plurality of optical signals through the plurality of optical fibers and into the fiber-array plate at the first surface of the fiber-array plate, and emitting a composite output beam (in some embodiments, the emitting of the composite output beam includes emitting a plurality of output beams) from the second surface of the fiber-array plate.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE FIGURES

"Each of the items shown in the following brief description of the drawings represents some embodiments of the present invention.

"FIG. 1A1 is a schematic perspective view of an optical-fiber array assembly 101.1 having equal-spaced fiber connections to a base plate 110.

"FIG. 1A2 is a schematic perspective view of an optical-fiber array assembly 101.2 having unequal-spaced fiber connections to a base plate 110.

"FIG. 1B1 is a schematic perspective view of an optical-fiber array assembly 102.1.

"FIG. 1B2 is a schematic perspective view of an optical-fiber array assembly 102.2.

"FIG. 1C1 is a schematic perspective view of an optical-fiber array assembly 103.1.

"FIG. 1C2 is a schematic perspective view of an optical-fiber-array assembly 103.2.

"FIG. 1D is a diagram of an overall system 10 that includes a plurality of assemblies including an optical-fiber-array assembly (OFAA) 104.

"FIG. 2A is a schematic end view of an optical-fiber-array assembly 201.

"FIG. 2B is a schematic end view of an optical-fiber-array assembly 202.

"FIG. 2C is a schematic end view of an optical-fiber-array assembly 203.

"FIG. 2D is a schematic end view of an optical-fiber-array assembly 204.

"FIG. 2E is a schematic end view of an optical-fiber-array assembly 205.

"FIG. 2F is a schematic end view of an optical-fiber-array assembly 206.

"FIG. 2G1 is a schematic end view of an optical-fiber-array assembly 207

"FIG. 2G2 is a schematic side view of assembly 207 of FIG. 2G1.

"FIG. 3A is a schematic plan view of an optical-fiber-array assembly 301.

"FIG. 3B1 is a schematic plan view of an optical-fiber-array assembly 302.1.

"FIG. 3B2 is a schematic plan view of an optical-fiber-array assembly 302.2.

"FIG. 3C1 is a schematic plan view of an optical-fiber-array assembly 3030.

"FIG. 3C2 is a schematic plan view of an optical-fiber-array assembly 3031.

"FIG. 3D is a schematic plan view of an optical-fiber-array assembly 304.

"FIG. 3E is a schematic plan view of an optical-fiber-array assembly 305 that includes a curved second surface 315.

"FIG. 4A is a schematic side view of an optical-fiber-array assembly 401.

"FIG. 4B is a schematic side view of an optical-fiber-array assembly 402.

"FIG. 4C1 is a schematic side view of an optical-fiber-array assembly 403.1.

"FIG. 4C2 is a schematic side view of an optical-fiber-array assembly 403.2.

"FIG. 4D is a schematic side view of an optical-fiber-array assembly 404.

"FIG. 4E is a schematic side view of an optical-fiber-array assembly 405.

"FIG. 4F is a schematic perspective view of an optical-fiber-array assembly 406.

"FIG. 4G is a schematic side view of an optical-fiber-array assembly 407.

"FIG. 5A1 is a schematic plan view of a spectral beam combiner 500.1 that includes an optical-fiber-array assembly 501.

"FIG. 5A2 is a schematic plan view of a spectral beam combiner 500.2 that includes an optical-fiber-array assembly 501.

"FIG. 5A3 is a schematic perspective view of a spectral beam combiner 500.2 that includes an optical-fiber-array assembly 501.

"FIG. 5B is a schematic diagram of a spectral-beam-combining ring-laser system 502 that uses in-line isolators to help ensure unidirectional travel of the lasing beams around the rings.

"FIG. 6A1 is a schematic perspective view of an optical-fiber-array assembly 601.

"FIG. 6A2 is a schematic cross-section view (across plane 670 of FIG. 6A1) of assembly 601 that includes an output window 661 at second surface 612 according to some embodiments of the invention.

"FIG. 6A3 is a schematic cross-section view (across plane 670 of FIG. 6A1) of assembly 601 that includes an output lenslet 664 for each of a plurality of output beams at second surface 612 according to some embodiments of the invention.

"FIG. 6A4 is a schematic cross-section view (across plane 670 of FIG. 6A1) of an assembly 601 that includes an output meniscus (concave-convex) lenslet 665 for each of a plurality of output beams at second surface 612 according to some embodiments of the invention.

"FIG. 6B is a schematic perspective view of an optical-fiber-array assembly 602.

"FIG. 6C is a schematic perspective view of an optical-fiber-array assembly 603.

"FIG. 6D is a schematic plan view of optical-fiber-array assembly 603 of FIG. 6C."

For additional information on this patent application, see: Hu, Yongdan; Lemaire, Charles A. Optical-Fiber Array and Method. Filed August 6, 2013 and posted July 31, 2014. Patent URL: http://appft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO2&Sect2=HITOFF&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsearch-adv.html&r=3245&p=65&f=G&l=50&d=PG01&S1=20140724.PD.&OS=PD/20140724&RS=PD/20140724

Keywords for this news article include: Legal Issues, Lockheed Martin Corporation.

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Source: Defense & Aerospace Week


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