Analog photonic links require high-fidelity, high-speed optical-to-electrical conversion for applications such as radio-over-fiber, synchronization at kilometer-scale facilities, and low-noise electronic signal generation. Photodetector nonlinearity is a particularly vexing problem, causing signal distortion and excess noise, especially in systems utilizing ultrashort optical pulses. Here we show that photodetectors designed for high power handling and high linearity can perform optical-to-electrical conversion of ultrashort optical pulses with unprecedented linearity over a large photocurrent range. We also corroborate and expand upon the physical understanding of how the broadband, complex impedance of the circuit following the photodiode modifies the linearity - in some cases quite significantly. By externally manipulating the circuit impedance, we extend the detector's linear range to higher photocurrents, with over 50 dB rejection of amplitude-to-phase conversion for photocurrents up to 40 mA. This represents a 1000-fold improvement over state-of-the-art photodiodes and significantly extends the attainable microwave power by a factor of four. As such, we eliminate the long-standing requirement in ultrashort pulse detection of precise tuning of the photodiode's operating parameters to coincide with a nonlinearity minimum. These results should also apply more generally to reduce nonlinear distortion in a range of other microwave photonics applications.
Davila-Rodriguez, J; Xie, X; Zang, J; Long, C J; Fortier, T M; Leopardi, H; Nakamura, T; Campbell, J C; Diddams, S A; and Quinlan, F, "Optimizing the linearity in high-speed photodiodes." (2018). Physics Faculty Contributions. 124.