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Benchtop High-Speed LiNbO3 Electro-Optic Modulator Drivers

  • Digital Operation up to 12.5 Gb/s or 40 Gb/s
  • Analog (Linear) Operation up to 7 GHz or 20 GHz
  • Built-In RF Amplifier, Bias Control, and Variable Optical Attenuator
  • Accepts External Laser Sources from 1250 to 1610 nm


Modulator Driver for Operation up to 12.5 Gb/s

Touchscreen Interface

Related Items

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Block Diagram of the Internal Setup of the MX10A and MX40A Modulator Drivers. See the Operation tab for details.


  • Benchtop Drivers for LiNbO3 Electro-Optic Modulators
  • High-Speed Digital Operation
    • MX10A: 12.5 Gb/s Max System Bit Rate
    • MX40A: 40 Gb/s Max System Bit Rate
  • Analog (Linear) Operation
    • MX10A: Up to 7 GHz Small Signal Bandwidth
    • MX40A: Up to 20 GHz Small Signal Bandwidth
  • RF Amplifier with Amplitude and Eye-Crossing Controls
  • Fully Automatic or Manual Bias Control for Intensity Modulators
    • Peak, Null, and Quadrature Set Points
    • Dithered or Ditherless Operation
  • Built-In Variable Optical Attenuator (VOA) for Automatic or Manual Power Control
  • Touchscreen Control and Display of Control Signals

Thorlabs' High-Speed LiNbO3 Modulator Drivers provide control for fiber-coupled lithium-niobate electro-optic modulators. The operational wavelength range extends from 1250 nm to 1610 nm (O- through L-band), and the user may select from power calibration points at 1310 nm, 1550 nm, and 1590 nm using the touchscreen interface. These instruments are ideal for use either in an R&D laboratory or in a manufacturing environment for creating optical links, performing experiments requiring fast optical modulation, or testing modulators or other components.

These drivers are designed for use with LiNbO3 phase or intensity modulators and provide all the electronics necessary for biasing and RF driving. Depending on the model, each driver is compatible with modulators that can operate at up to speeds of 12.5 Gb/s or 40 Gb/s for digital operation or at a small signal bandwidth of up to 7 GHz or 20 GHz for analog operation. The internal circuitry enables bias control with peak, null, and quadrature set points. The drivers also include a series of power monitors at the laser input, modulator output, and final optical output, as well as a variable optical attenuator, for fully automatic monitoring and control of optical power along the entire optical path. See the Operation tab for more information on the system.

The instruments featured here contain only the electronics for biasing and driving the modulators and do not include an intensity or phase modulator. For all-in-one instruments that include an intensity or phase modulator, modulator driver, and tunable laser, see our Reference Transmitters and our Optical Transmitters with Phase Modulators.

Power and Environmental Specifications
Parameter Min Max
Main AC Voltage 100 VAC 250 VAC
Power Consumption - 60 VA
Line Frequency 50 Hz 60 Hz
Operating Temperature 10 °C 40 °C
Storage Temperature 0 °C 50 °C
Humiditya 5% Relative Humidity 85% Relative Humidity
  • Non-Condensing Environment
Item # MX10A MX40A
Optical Input Power 20 dBm (Maximum)
22 dBm (Absolute Max.)
External Laser Wavelength Range 1250 - 1610 nm
Power Calibration Points 1310 nm, 1550 nm, and 1590 nm
Maximum Bit Rate (Digital Signal) 12.5 Gb/s 40 Gb/s
Small Signal Bandwidtha 7 GHz 20 GHz
Low Frequency Cutoff 100 kHz
Amplifier RF Input (Linear Response)b 100 mV (Maximum) 120 mV (Maximum)
Amplifier RF Input (Digital Mode)c 400 mV (Typical)
3.5 V (Maximum)
4 V (Absolute Max)
400 mV (Typical)
4 V (Maximum)
6 V (Absolute Max)
Maximum Amplifier DC Input ±15 V ±10 V
Maximum Bias Voltage to Modulator ±10 V (≥50 Ω Input Impedance)
Internal Fiber PM Ports: PM Panda-Style Fiber
SM Port: SMF-28-Compatible Fiber
Fiber Connectors FC/PC, 2.0 mm Narrow Key
Electrical Connectors SMA Female
Internal Amplifier
Rise/Fall Timed 35 ps 8 ps
RF Amplifier Gain 34 dB 30 dB
RF Amplifier Maximum Output Swing 3 V - 7 V (Adjustable)
Electrical Return Losse -10 dB (Typical)
Internal Control
Power Monitor Accuracy ±0.5 dBm at Power Calibration Points
Power Monitor Resolution 0.01 dBm
Power Monitor Insertion Loss (Typical) 0.1 dB per Monitor
VOA Insertion Loss (Typical) 0.4 dB
VOA Attenuation 20 dB (Max)
VOA Response Time 1 s
  • Linear, Analog Response
  • <5% Total Harmonic Distortion at 1 GHz
  • Peak to Peak
  • Large Signal, Digital Response
  • Any RF Port

System Overview

The block diagram below provides a basic illustration of the internal setup of the modulator drivers. The external laser is directed into the driver and through Monitor 1 before exiting to the external modulator. The output of the modulator then returns into the instrument and passes through the VOA-based power control system on its way to the output on the front panel. The drivers include a high-performance RF amplifier for driving the modulator. Automatic bias control is added for use with intensity modulators. The rear panel features output ports for several additional monitor and control functions.

Modulator Driver Block Diagram
Block Diagram of the Internal Setup of the MX10A and MX40A Modulator Drivers

Touchscreen Interface

These instruments can be fully controlled by using the resistive touchscreen display, which is sensitive to finger pressure or the tap of a plastic stylus. Additionally, the knob on the front panel of the housing can be used in place of the on-screen arrow buttons for quickly changing set-point values. Pressing (clicking) the knob will confirm a new set-point value.

Optical Transmitter Main Menu
Click to Enlarge

Main Menu (Home Screen) of the MX10A and MX40A

Home Screen
The home screen is organized in three main sections.

  • Left Column:
    • Buttons show the on/off status of the different instrument functions
    • Tap a button to toggle the function on/off.
  • Middle Column:
    • Current operating parameters of each control function are shown.
    • Tap in this column to access the Settings page for each function.
  • Right Column:
    • Buttons provide access to various utility and help functions.
    • Tap to review and customize system settings..

The basic layout can be seen in the screenshots to the right. The green dot that appears in the upper-right of the center column panels indicates that those functions are stable. The dot will blink if that function is still stabilizing.

System Wavelength
Click to Enlarge

System Wavelength Selection Screen

System Wavelength Setting
The System Wavelength may be selected on the Menu page, shown to the right. The choice of system wavelength specifies which calibration settings to apply to the intensity monitors in the modulator driver. The MX instruments can be used at wavelengths anywhere between 1250 nm and 1610 nm, but the power monitors are only calibrated at three main wavelengths: 1310 nm, 1550 nm, and 1590 nm. These wavelengths represent the centers of the O-Band, C-Band, and L-Band and therefore provide the user with accurate power readings at or near those wavelengths.

Optical Transmitter Amplifier
Click to Enlarge

Amplifier Settings Screen

Amplifier Settings
Each modulator driver includes a high-performance RF amplifier that provides a fixed gain to a user-supplied input signal. Users can select analog or digital operating mode for the amplifier. Analog operation allows for maximum linear modulation with low distortion. In digital mode, both the output swing and crossing point can be adjusted by the user while the gain is held constant. This adjustment allows the user to optimize the bit-error-rate (BER) performance by adjusting the amplifier’s internal threshold levels.

Optical Transmitter Amplifier
Click to Enlarge

Bias Settings Screen

Bias Settings (For Use with Intensity Modulators Only)
When driving an intensity modulator, the MX10A and MX40A provide four modes for bias control. Users can select whether to use the peak, null, or quadrature point of the transfer function as the set point. Additionally, a manual mode allows the user to select any point of the transmission function to be used as the set point for the modulator bias.

These instruments can also provide bias control with or without a dither tone. For bias control with dither, users can select the amplitude and frequency that work best with their applications. For applications that require the highest SNR, the dither tone can be turned off. In this case, the bias will simply be held at the previous bias voltage. For longer term measurements, the Manual Constant Ratio mode provides another option for stabilizing the bias point. This mode operates by holding the ratio of modulator input light (Monitor 1 in the block diagram above) to modulator output light (Monitor 2) at a constant, user-set value.

Click to Enlarge

VOA Settings Screen

VOA Settings
On this screen, the user can control the optical output power via the Variable Optical Attenuator (VOA). The VOA can be operated in one of two modes: Constant Attenuation or Constant Output Power. In Constant Attenuation mode, the attenuation level between the output of the modulator and the output of the entire unit remains fixed, allowing power changes at the input to be transferred to the output. In Constant Output Power Mode, the final optical output power is held constant independent of the input fluctuations. In this mode, the VOA is effectively used as a power stabilizer.

Rear Panel

The rear panel provides additional utility functions such as the power monitor output, RS-232, and USB ports. The USB interface is currently used only for firmware upgrades that are made available on the Thorlabs website. Future revisions of the firmware will provide for remote control of the instrument’s functions.

Front Panel

Click to Enlarge

MX10A Front Panel
Callout Description
1 Touchscreen Display and Control
2 Value Adjustment Knob
3 Earth Ground Port for ESD Wrist Strap Banana Plug
4a Laser In for External Laser Source,
Accepts PM Fiber with FC/PC Connector
5a Laser Output to Modulator Input,
Accepts PM Fiber with FC/PC Connector
6b Return from Modulator Output,
FC/PC Connector
7b Optical Out: Final Optical Output,
FC/PC Connector
8 Amplifier RF Out: Signal to Modulator,
SMA Female
9 Bias Output to Modulator,
SMA Female
10 Amplifier RF In: Signal Input to Amplifier,
SMA Female
11 On/Standby Button
  • Uses PM Panda Fiber for Internal Connection
  • Uses SMF-28-Compatible Fiber for Internal Connection

Back Panel

Click to Enlarge

MX10A Back Panel
Callout Description
1a I/O Control Port
Outputs from Three Integrated Power Monitors
2a RS-232 Control Port
3 USB Port (Type B)
4 AC Power Cord Connector
5 Fuse Tray
6 AC Power Switch
  • See the Pin Diagrams tab for pin assignments.

I/O DB15 Connector (Female)

The I/O connector provides analog outputs from the three power monitors.

Pin Description Pin Description
1 Power Monitor 1 9 Analog Ground
2 Power Monitor 2 10 Analog Ground
3 Power Monitor 3 11 Reserved for Future Use
4 Reserved for Future Use 12 Reserved for Future Use
5 Analog Ground 13 Monitor 1 Gain Indicator
6 Analog Ground 14 Monitor 2 Gain Indicator
7 Analog Ground 15 Monitor 3 Gain Indicator
8 Analog Ground - -

RS-232 Connector (Male)

The RS-232 connector is provided for firmware upgrades and will support remote operation in the future.

Pin Description
1 Not Connected
2 RS232 Input
3 RS232 Output
4 Not Connected
5 Digital Ground
6 Not Connected
7 Not Connected
8 Not Connected
9 Not Connected

USB, Type B (Female)

The USB connector is provided for firmware upgrades and will support remote operation in the future.

Each Modulator Driver includes:

  • Modulator Driver Main Unit
  • Power Cord According to Local Supply (Determined by Ordering Location)
  • 1.25 A, 250 VAC Fuse
  • USB Type A to Type B Cable, 6' Long

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Posted Comments:
Posted Date:2016-05-12 14:36:37.483
This looks like a nice design is a 100 Gb/s version in the works?
Posted Date:2016-05-17 08:32:23.0
Response from Bweh at Thorlabs USA: Thanks for your interest. We are working on such higher bandwidth modulator drivers with matching amplifiers. I will contact you to further discuss your requirements.
Based on your currency / country selection, your order will ship from Newton, New Jersey  
+1 Qty Docs Part Number - Universal Price Available / Ships
MX10A Support Documentation
MX10ABenchtop Modulator Driver, 12.5 Gb/s Max
MX40A Support Documentation
MX40ABenchtop Modulator Driver, 40 Gb/s Max
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