Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Scott Diddams

Second Advisor

Alysia Marino

Third Advisor

James Green

Fourth Advisor

Ivan Smalyukh

Fifth Advisor

Steve Cundiff


Laser frequency comb sources promise to enable precision astronomical spectroscopy at the 10-11 level, enabling observations aimed at locating potentially habitable planets. Frequency combs allow for the simultaneous generation of thousands of individual laser lines, each with optical frequency referenced to the SI second, and are capable of providing a bright, simple, and stable spectrum ideal for the calibration of grating-based astronomical spectrographs. In order for frequency combs and spectrographs to be used in tandem, key technical challenges must be addressed. Most critically, it is necessary to increase the mode-spacing of the frequency comb to more than 20 GHz while simultaneously retaining the stability and broad optical bandwidth of the comb.

This thesis also offers an overview of modern astronomical spectroscopy, along with a thorough discussion of the technical details of mode-locked lasers and frequency comb design. This thesis begins by presenting a frequency comb system with mode-spacing of 25 GHz suitable for the near-infrared between 1500 and 1700 nm. Examples are shown from the successful calibration of the Penn State University Pathfinder astronomical spectrograph located at the Hobby-Eberly telescope using the frequency comb system. In the second half of the thesis, the erbium-fiber frequency comb is shown to generate highly coherent, ultrafast, and bright pulses at 1050 nm. The short duration and high peak power of these pulses enable coherent and continuous extension of the comb to visible wavelengths. Next, an accurate model of a nonlinear fiber optic amplifiers is developed and tested, then applied to optimize the selection of fiber lengths in the design of ultrafast nonlinear fiber-optic systems. Finally, a broad-bandwidth optical filter cavity for the generation of a 980—1110 nm suitable for calibration of next-generation spectrographs was designed and tested.

Included in

Optics Commons