I have a setup which includes a 637 nm toptica iBeamSmart laser which is reflected off two mirrors, passes through a line of dichroics (that should completely transmit it, they are used to couple other lasers) and then hits the entrance of a single mode optical fiber. When measuring the coupling ratio with a thorlabs photodiode, I came across some odd behavior: for some power settings of the laser, i measure more power behind the fiber than at the laser exit or in front of the fiber. You can see my measurements in this plot (all values in mW):637 laser Calibration (all values in mW)

Now, since I took these measurement series at different times, at first I assumed the laser was just not accurrately setting its output power. However, what I tested afterwards was leaving the laser power untouched, simply moving the photodiode back and forth from the laser exit to the fiber exit and the measurements matched what I saw before. I can't come up with any explanation as to how the power could be higher behind the fiber.

I have done these same measurements with the other 4 lasers in my setup (405, 488, 532 and 568 nm) and reached more standard results (i.e) coupling ratios of 50-70% for all laser powers.

I actually took a video of my setup while doing the measurements without touching the laser controls so you can check out my setup if you would like. The video

Obviously laser power can not be created from thin air, but I really would like to know how this is possible or if this has been observed before.

EDIT: I tested the power range where this is happening more thorougly, as some comments suggested: (I also tried to observe the beam profile at different power levels but it just always looks round to me. I don't have a way to measure the spatial distribution of the beam behind the fiber) New tests

New tests 2

Some notes on this: This is entirely new data, and I measured at the same laser settings as before as well as at some more power settings.

Lowering the power steps even more is basically impossible as there are some power steps where clearly the laser did not change output, as both the pre fiber measurement as well as the post fiber did not change at all. I still can't think of a convincing reason for these measurements.

EDIT 2: Maybe the same data as a linear graph in the important region will help: Linear graph

  • $\begingroup$ Can you see the beam profile visibly change between the 0.2 mW and 0.3 mW settings (where the fiber output power abruptly jumps)? $\endgroup$
    – Gilbert
    Commented Jul 13, 2018 at 11:52
  • $\begingroup$ What do you mean by beam profile? The output of the fiber? It does look brighter but that is the case with every power increase (even where the power only increases proportionally to the increase ahead of the fiber) and it is very hard to tell visually how much brighter it is. $\endgroup$
    – L. Hehn
    Commented Jul 13, 2018 at 12:58
  • $\begingroup$ Sorry, I mean the shape of the beam spot. $\endgroup$
    – Gilbert
    Commented Jul 13, 2018 at 13:07
  • $\begingroup$ Ah that makes sense, I unfortunately went home for the weekend already and haven't watched for that specifically. I don't recall seeing any change but I will have to check again on monday. $\endgroup$
    – L. Hehn
    Commented Jul 13, 2018 at 13:25
  • $\begingroup$ A possibility I thought of that might explain it is that there is some form of destructive interference happening of the laser with itself, and due to the single mode fiber that reduces it somewhat. I don't know enough about lasers to judge if that is a realistic possibility, but I do know that I went down the laser path with the photodiode and the measurement did not vary by more than 1%, so if there is interference it is consistent along the beam. $\endgroup$
    – L. Hehn
    Commented Jul 13, 2018 at 13:29

1 Answer 1


Your diode is sensitive to temperature differences. This could easily explain the power discrepancy. Lab environment temperature can change in strange ways as a function of laser configuration. You need to consider the feedback controls in your air conditioning to understand the relationship between the laser configuration and the temperature of your diode.

In the video, the mounting of the diode is pretty inconsistent. This could contribute a lot of systematic error.

In my experience, 50% random or systematic error in laser power measurement is not unusual.


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