Random distributed feedback fibre lasers

Sergei K. Turitsyn*, Sergey A. Babin, Dmitry V. Churkin, Ilya D. Vatnik, Maxim Nikulin, Evgenii V. Podivilov

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The concept of random lasers exploiting multiple scattering of photons in an amplifying disordered medium in order to generate coherent light without a traditional laser resonator has attracted a great deal of attention in recent years. This research area lies at the interface of the fundamental theory of disordered systems and laser science. The idea was originally proposed in the context of astrophysics in the 1960s by V.S. Letokhov, who studied scattering with "negative absorption" of the interstellar molecular clouds. Research on random lasers has since developed into a mature experimental and theoretical field. A simple design of such lasers would be promising for potential applications. However, in traditional random lasers the properties of the output radiation are typically characterized by complex features in the spatial, spectral and time domains, making them less attractive than standard laser systems in terms of practical applications. Recently, an interesting and novel type of one-dimensional random laser that operates in a conventional telecommunication fibre without any pre-designed resonator mirrors-random distributed feedback fibre laser-was demonstrated. The positive feedback required for laser generation in random fibre lasers is provided by the Rayleigh scattering from the inhomogeneities of the refractive index that are naturally present in silica glass. In the proposed laser concept, the randomly backscattered light is amplified through the Raman effect, providing distributed gain over distances up to 100km. Although an effective reflection due to the Rayleigh scattering is extremely small (~0.1%), the lasing threshold may be exceeded when a sufficiently large distributed Raman gain is provided. Such a random distributed feedback fibre laser has a number of interesting and attractive features. The fibre waveguide geometry provides transverse confinement, and effectively one-dimensional random distributed feedback leads to the generation of a stationary near-Gaussian beam with a narrow spectrum. A random distributed feedback fibre laser has efficiency and performance that are comparable to and even exceed those of similar conventional fibre lasers. The key features of the generated radiation of random distributed feedback fibre lasers include: a stationary narrow-band continuous modeless spectrum that is free of mode competition, nonlinear power broadening, and an output beam with a Gaussian profile in the fundamental transverse mode (generated both in single mode and multi-mode fibres).This review presents the current status of research in the field of random fibre lasers and shows their potential and perspectives. We start with an introductory overview of conventional distributed feedback lasers and traditional random lasers to set the stage for discussion of random fibre lasers. We then present a theoretical analysis and experimental studies of various random fibre laser configurations, including widely tunable, multi-wavelength, narrow-band generation, and random fibre lasers operating in different spectral bands in the 1-1.6μm range. Then we discuss existing and future applications of random fibre lasers, including telecommunication and distributed long reach sensor systems. A theoretical description of random lasers is very challenging and is strongly linked with the theory of disordered systems and kinetic theory. We outline two key models governing the generation of random fibre lasers: the average power balance model and the nonlinear Schrödinger equation based model. Recently invented random distributed feedback fibre lasers represent a new and exciting field of research that brings together such diverse areas of science as laser physics, the theory of disordered systems, fibre optics and nonlinear science. Stable random generation in optical fibre opens up new possibilities for research on wave transport and localization in disordered media. We hope that this review will provide background information for research in various fields and will stimulate cross-disciplinary collaborations on random fibre lasers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)133-193
Number of pages61
JournalPhysics Reports
Issue number2
Early online date19 Mar 2014
Publication statusPublished - 10 Sept 2014


  • distributed feedback lasers
  • fibre lasers
  • nonlinear systems
  • random lasers


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