Erbium Doped Fiber Amplifier Introduction

In an optical communication network, a signal travels through fibers in every large distance without significant attenuation. However, when it comes to the distance up to hundreds of kilometers, to amplify the signal during transit becomes rather essential. In this case, an optical fiber amplifier is required to achieve signal amplification in long-distance optical communication. This article aims to give a brief introduction to the most deployed fiber amplifier— Erbium doped fiber amplifier (EDFA).

What Is Erbium Doped Fiber Amplifier?

An Erbium doped fiber amplifier is an optical or IR repeater that amplifies a modulated laser beam directly, without optoelectronic and electro-optical conversion. Generally speaking, it is an optical repeater device that is used to boost the intensity of optical signals being carried through a fiber optic communications system.

EDFA Working Principle Introduction

Erbium doped fiber amplifier serves as a kind of optical amplifier which is doped with the rare earth element erbium so that the glass fiber can absorb light at one frequency and emit light at another frequency. An external semiconductor laser couples light into the fiber at infrared wavelengths of either 980 or 1480 nanometers. This action excites the erbium atoms. Additional optical signals at wavelengths between 1530 and 1620 nanometers enter the fiber and stimulate the excited erbium atoms to emit photons at the same wavelength as the incoming signal. This action amplifies a weak optical signal to a higher power, effecting a boost in the signal strength. The following picture shows 13dBm output C-band 40 channels booster EDFA for DWDM Networks.

erbium doped fiber amplifier

The Advantages of EDFA

The EDFA obtains the advantages of high gain, wide bandwidth, high output power, high pumping efficiency, low insertion loss, and it is not sensitive to the polarization state.

  • It provides in-line amplification of signal without requiring electronics, and the signal does not need to be converted to an electrical signal before amplification. The amplification is entirely optical.
  • It provides high power transfer efficiency from pump to signal power.
  • The amplification is independent of a data rate.
  • The gain is relatively flat so that they can be cascaded for long distance use. On the debit side, the devices are large. There is gain saturation and there is also the presence of amplified spontaneous emission (ASE).

The Applications of EDFA

The Erbium doped fiber amplifier was the first successful optical amplifier and a significant factor in the rapid deployment of fiber optic networks during the 1990s. By adopting it in conventional optical digital communication system applications, we can save a certain amount of optical repeaters. Meanwhile, the distance relay could also be increased significantly, which is vital for the long-haul fiber optic cable trunking systems. The EDFA is usually employed in these circumstances:

EDFA can be employed in the high-capacity and high-speed optical communication system. It offers a constructive and ideal solution for handling low sensitivity of receivers and short transmission distances because of a lack of OEO repeater.

In addition, EDFA can be adopted in a long-haul optical communication system, such as land trunk optical transmission system and the submarine optical fiber cable transmission system. It helps to lower construction cost dramatically by reducing the number of regenerative repeaters.

Moreover, EDFA can also be employed in wavelength-division multiplexing (WDM) system, especially dense wavelength-division multiplexing (DWDM) system. It enables the problems of insertion loss to be solved successfully and reduces the influences of chromatic dispersion.


By far, being the most advanced and popular optical amplifier, EDFA has been widely adopted in the optical fiber communication networks. Featured by flat gain over a large dynamic gain range, low noise, high saturation output power and stable operation with excellent transient suppression, it surely will capture a rather vital and indispensable position in optical communication in the near future.

Related article:

Optical Amplifier – EDFA (Erbium-doped Fiber Amplifier) for WDM System

How to Place EDFA for DWDM Distance Extension?

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