In-fiber devices enable a vast array of critical photonic functions ranging from signal conditioning (amplification, dispersion control) to network management (add/drop multiplexers, optical monitoring). These devices have become mainstays of fiber-optic communication systems because they provide the advantages of low loss, polarization insensitivity, high reliability, and compatibility with the transmission line. The majority of fiber devices reported to date are obtained by doping, designing, or writing gratings in the core of a single-mode fiber (SMF). Thus, these devices use the fiber only as a platform for propagating light-the device effect itself is due to some extraneously introduced material or structure (dopants for amplification, gratings for phase matching, etc.) There exists another, relatively less explored degree of freedom afforded by fibers-the ability to copropagate more than one mode. Each mode may have a uniquely defined modal dispersion and propagation characteristic. In this paper, we will describe the variety of fiber devices enabled by few-mode fibers-fibers that typically support two to four modes with suitably tailored dispersive properties. We will show that the unique dispersive properties of various modes, in conjunction with the ability to couple between them with gratings, leads to devices that offer novel solutions for dispersion compensation, spectral shaping, and polarization control, to name a few.
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