A simple, highly accurate measurement technique for real-time monitoring of the group delay (GD) profiles of photonic dispersive devices over ultra-broad spectral bandwidths (e.g. an entire communication wavelength band) is demonstrated. The technique is based on time-domain self-interference of an incoherent light pulse after linear propagation through the device under test, providing a measurement wavelength range as wide as the source spectral bandwidth. Significant enhancement in the signal-to-noise ratio of the self-interference signal has been observed by use of a relatively low-noise incoherent light source as compared with the theoretical estimate for a white-noise light source. This fact combined with the use of balanced photo-detection has allowed us to significantly reduce the number of profiles that need to be averaged to reach a targeted GD measurement accuracy, thus achieving reconstruction of the device GD profile in real time. We report highly-accurate monitoring of (i) the group-delay ripple (GDR) profile of a 10-m long chirped fiber Bragg grating over the full C band (~42 nm), and (ii) the group velocity dispersion (GVD) and dispersion slope (DS) profiles of a ~2-km long dispersion compensating fiber module over an ~72-nm wavelength range, both captured at a 15 frames/s video rate update, with demonstrated standard deviations in the captured GD profiles as low as ~1.6 ps.
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