Click to Enlarge Our Adjustable Narrowband Isolators can be tuned to maximize the peak isolation for any wavelength within a narrow spectral range (shaded in this graph). See the Wavelength Tuning tab for more details.
Custom Isolators Available (See Custom Isolators Tab)
Thorlabs is pleased to stock a variety of free-space optical isolators designed for use in the near infrared spectral range (760 - 1050 nm). Optical isolators, also known as Faraday isolators, are magneto-optic devices that preferentially transmit light along a single direction, shielding upstream optics from back reflections. Back reflections can create a number of instabilities in light sources, including intensity noise, frequency shifts, mode hopping, and loss of mode lock. In addition, intense back-reflected light can permanently damage optics. Please see the Isolator Tutorial tab for an explanation of the operating principles of a Faraday isolator.
In the near infrared wavelength range, we offer three types of isolators. The first type, Fixed Narrowband Isolators, contains fixed, factory-aligned optics, for which peak isolation and peak transmission occurs at a pre-defined center wavelength. Any deviation from this wavelength will cause a dip in isolation and transmission. The second type, Adjustable Narrowband Isolators, offers the user the ability to adjust the alignment of the input and output polarizers, allowing tuning of the center wavelength within a 30 - 40 nm range; see the tables below for details. The third type, Tandem Adjustable Narrowband Isolators, consists of two Faraday rotators in series, boosting the isolation to at least 55 dB at the expense of lower transmission. Please see the Isolator Types tab for additional design details and representative graphs of the wavelength-dependent isolation.
Except for the IO-D-780-VLP, the housing of each isolator shown here is marked with an arrow that indicates the direction of forward propagation. All isolators shown here (including the IO-D-780-VLP) have engravings that indicate the alignment of the input and output polarizers.
Thorlabs also manufactures isolators for fiber optic systems and wavelengths from the visible to the infrared (see the Selection Guide table to the left). As indicated in the tables below and pictured to the right, many of our stock isolators can also be provided in a mount designed for our FiberBench systems. If Thorlabs does not stock an isolator suited for your application, please refer to our Custom Isolators page for information on our build-to-order options, or contact Tech Support. Thorlabs' in-house manufacturing service has over 25 years of experience and can deliver a free-space isolator tuned to your center wavelength (from 244 - 2800 nm).
Shaded regions on a graph represent the center wavelength tuning range of the isolator. With these isolators, the isolation and transmission curves will shift as the center wavelength shifts. If the graph is not shaded, then the isolator is non-tunable. Please note that these curves were made from theoretical data and that isolation and transmission will vary from unit to unit.
Optimize Our Isolators to Provide the Same Peak Isolation Anywhere Within Their Tuning Range
Simple Tuning Procedure, Illustrated Below, Consists Primarily of Rotating the Output Polarizer
Slight Transmission Losses Occur Due to Polarizer Rotation
Click to Enlarge When the isolator is tuned away from its design wavelength, the maximum transmission falls because the output polarizer's transmission axis is not parallel to the polarization direction of the output light.
Click to Enlarge Our Adjustable Narrowband Isolators can be tuned to maximize the peak isolation for any wavelength within a narrow spectral range (shaded in this graph).
Operating Principles of Optical Isolators Thorlabs' Adjustable Narrowband Isolators are designed to provide the same peak isolation anywhere within a 30 - 40 nm tuning range. They contain a Faraday rotator that has been factory tuned to rotate light of the design wavelength by 45°. Light propagating through the isolator in the backward direction is polarized at 45° by the output polarizer and is rotated by 45° by the Faraday rotator, giving a net polarization of 90° relative to the transmission axis of the input polarizer. Therefore, an isolator rejects backward propagating light. See the Isolator Tutorial tab for a schematic of the beam path.
The magnitude of the rotation caused by the Faraday rotator is wavelength dependent. This means that light with a different wavelength than the design wavelength will not be rotated at exactly 45°. For example, if 980 nm light is rotated by 45° (that is, 980 nm is the design wavelength), then 975 nm light is rotated by 45.6°. If 975 nm light is sent backward through an isolator designed for 980 nm without any tweaking, it will have a net polarization of 45° + 45.6° = 90.6° relative to the axis of the input polarizer. The polarization component of the light parallel to the input polarizer's axis will be transmitted, and the isolation will therefore be significantly reduced.
Since the net polarization needs to be 90° to obtain high isolation, the output polarizer is rotated to compensate for the extra rotation being caused by the Faraday isolator. In our example, the new polarizer angle is 90° - 45.6° = 44.4°. This adjustment increases the isolation back to the same value as at the design wavelength.
Consequences of Wavelength Tuning Procedure As a direct consequence of rotating the output polarizer, the maximum transmission in the forward direction decreases. 975 nm light propagating in the forward direction is polarized at 0° by the input polarizer and rotated by 45.6° by the Faraday rotator, but the output polarizer is now at 44.4°. The amount of the transmission decrease can be quantified using Malus' Law:
Here, θ is the angle between the polarization direction of the light after the Faraday rotator and the transmission axis of the polarizer, I0 is the incident intensity, and I is the transmitted intensity. For small deviations from the center wavelength, the decrease in transmission is very slight, but for larger deviations, the decrease becomes noticeable. In our example (a 5 nm difference between the design wavelength and the usage wavelength), θ = 45.6° - 44.4° = 1.2°, so I = 0.9996 I0. This case is shown in the graphs above.
In applications, the decrease in transmission caused by the tuning procedure is usually less important than the significantly enhanced isolation gained by tuning. In fact, if the 980 nm isolator shown in the graphs above were used at 965 nm without tuning, the transmission difference would be negligible, but the isolation would be only 29 dB (instead of 36 dB). This case is also shown in the graphs above.
Thorlabs' isolator housings make it easy to rotate the output polarizer without disturbing the rest of the isolator. Our custom isolator manufacturing service (see the Non-Stock Isolators tab) can also provide an isolator specifically designed for a particular center wavelength, which can eliminate or strongly mitigate the transmission losses that occur at the edges of the tuning range. These custom isolators are provided at the same cost as their equivalent stock counterparts. For more information, please contact Technical Support.
Illustrated Tuning Procedure
To optimize the isolation curve for a specific wavelength within the tuning range, the alignment of the output polarizer may be tweaked following the simple procedure outlined below. Only a minor adjustment is necessary to cover a range of several nanometers. The procedure differs slightly for different isolator packages, but the principle remains the same across our entire isolator family, and complete model-specific tuning instructions ship with each isolator.
Step 1: Orient the isolator in the backward direction with respect to the beam (i.e., with the arrow pointing antiparallel to the beam propagation direction). A power meter with high sensitivity at low power levels should be placed after the isolator.
Use the included 5/64" hex key to loosen the isolator from its saddle.
Step 3: Use the included 5/64" hex key to tighten the isolator back into its saddle with the 8-32 setscrew exposed.
The isolator is mechanically stable in this position as long as the isolator has not been brought forward too much. (The amount shown in the image to the left is safe by several millimeters.) It should therefore not be necessary to reinsert the isolator at the end of the tuning procedure.
Step 5: Rotate the output polarizer to minimize the power on the power meter. Tighten the 8-32 setscrew once optimization is achieved.
As long as the isolator was not brought forward too much at the end of Step 2, the isolator will be mechanically stable in this position. Attempting to reinsert the isolator at this point may cause misalignment.
Fixed Narrowband Isolator
The isolator is set for 45° of rotation at the design wavelength. The polarizers are non-adjustable and are set to provide maximum isolation at the design wavelength. As the wavelength changes the isolation will drop; the graph shows a representative profile.
Fixed Rotator Element, Fixed Polarizers
Smallest and Least Expensive Isolator Type
Adjustable Narrowband Isolator
The isolator is set for 45° of rotation at the design wavelength. If the usage wavelength changes, the Faraday rotation will change, thereby decreasing the isolation. To regain maximum isolation, the output polarizer can be rotated to "re-center" the Gaussian isolation curve. This rotation causes transmission losses in the forward direction that increase as the difference between the usage wavelength and the design wavelength grows.
Fixed Rotator Element, Adjustable Polarizers
Adjustable Broadband Isolator
The isolator is set for 45° of rotation at the design wavelength. There is a tuning ring on the isolator that adjusts the amount of Faraday rotator material that is inserted into the internal magnet. As your usage wavelength changes, the Faraday rotation will change, thereby decreasing the isolation. To regain maximum isolation, the tuning ring is adjusted to produce the 45° of rotation necessary for maximum isolation.
Adjustable Rotator Element, Fixed Polarizers
Simple Tuning Procedure
Broader Tuning Range than Adjustable Narrowband Isolators
Fixed Broadband Isolator
A 45° Faraday rotator is coupled with a 45° crystal quartz rotator to produce a combined 90° rotation on the output. The wavelength dependences of the two rotator materials work together to produce a flat-top isolation profile. The isolator does not require any tuning or adjustment for operation within the designated design bandwidth.
Fixed Rotator Element, Fixed Polarizers
Largest Isolation Bandwidth
No Tuning Required
Tandem isolators consist of two Faraday rotators in series, which share one central polarizer. Since the two rotators cancel each other, the net rotation at the output is 0°. Our tandem designs yield narrowband isolators that may be fixed or adjustable.
Up to 60 dB Isolation
Fixed or Adjustable
Polarizer Types, Sizes, and Power Limits
Thorlabs designs and manufactures several types of polarizers that are used across our family of optical isolators. Their design characteristics are detailed below. The suffix of the part number of a given isolator identifies the type of polarizer that isolator contains.
Our Very Low Power Absorptive Film Polarizers are the most compact option. For light polarized perpendicular to the polarizer's transmission axis, the max power density is 25 W/cm2, while for light polarized parallel to the polarizer's transmission axis, the max power density is 100 W/cm2.
Polarizing Beamsplitter (PBS)
50 W/cm2 (CW)
Polarizing Beamsplitter Cubes are commonly used in low-power applications and feature an escape window useful for monitoring or injection locking.
α-BBO Glan-Laser (GLB)
100 W/cm2 (CW)
Thorlabs' α-BBO Glan-Laser polarizers are all based on high-grade, birefringent, α-BBO crystals with a wavelength range of 210 - 450 nm. Due to the birefringent structure of α-BBO, a phase delay is created between two orthogonally polarized waves traveling in the crystal. These are similar to the High Power (HP) polarizers, but have a different escape angle.
Low Power (LP)
250 W/cm2 (CW) 25 MW/cm2 (Pulsed)
Our Low Power Polarizers are Glan-type, crystal polarizers, providing high transmission and power densities at the expense of a larger package than Very Low Power (VLP) and Polarizing Beamsplitter (PBS) polarizers.
Medium Power (MP)
100 W/cm2 (CW) 50 MW/cm2 (Pulsed)
Medium Power Polarizers are Glan-type, crystal polarizers, capable of handling higher powers. The rejected beam is internally scattered, which reduces the maximum power density, but also eliminates a stray beam from the setup.
High Power (HP)
500 W/cm2 (CW) 150 MW/cm2 (Pulsed)
High Power Polarizers are Glan-type, crystal polarizers, similar in size and transmission to Medium Power (MP) polarizers, but capable of handling higher powers. They feature an escape window suited for injection locking.
Very High Power (VHP)
20 kW/cm2 (CW) 2 GW/cm2 (Pulsed)
Our Very High Power Polarizers are based on Brewster windows and feature the highest power handling possible. These polarizers have larger packages than HP-based designs, but are also more economical. All VHP-based designs also feature escape windows.
Optical Isolator Tutorial
Function An optical isolator is a passive magneto-optic device that only allows light to travel in one direction. Isolators are used to protect a source from back reflections or signals that may occur after the isolator. Back reflections can damage a laser source or cause it to mode hop, amplitude modulate, or frequency shift. In high-power applications, back reflections can cause instabilities and power spikes.
An isolator’s function is based on the Faraday Effect. In 1842, Michael Faraday discovered that the plane of polarized light rotates while transmitting through glass (or other materials) that is exposed to a magnetic field. The direction of rotation is dependent on the direction of the magnetic field and not on the direction of light propagation; thus, the rotation is non-reciprocal. The amount of rotation Q equals V x L x H, where V, L, and H are as defined below.
Q = V x L x H
V: the Verdet Constant, a property of the optical material, in minutes/Oersted-cm.
L: the path length through the optical material in cm.
H: the magnetic field strength in Oersted.
An optical isolator consists of an input polarizer, a Faraday rotator with magnet, and an output polarizer. The input polarizer works as a filter to allow only linearly polarized light into the Faraday rotator. The Faraday element rotates the input light's polarization by 45°, after which it exits through another linear polarizer. The output light is now rotated by 45° with respect to the input signal. In the reverse direction, the Faraday rotator continues to rotate the light's polarization in the same direction that it did in the forward direction so that the polarization of the light is now rotated 90° with respect to the input signal. This light's polarization is now perpendicular to the transmission axis of the input polarizer, and as a result, the energy is either reflected or absorbed depending on the type of polarizer.
Figure 2. A polarization-dependent isolator. Light propagating in the reverse direction is rejected by the input polarizer.
The Forward Mode In this example, we will assume that the input polarizer's axis is vertical (0° in Figure 2). Laser light, either polarized or unpolarized, enters the input polarizer and becomes vertically polarized. The Faraday rotator will rotate the plane of polarization (POP) by 45°. Finally, the light exits through the output polarizer which has its axis at 45°. Therefore, the light leaves the isolator with a POP of 45°.
The Reverse Mode Light traveling backwards through the isolator will first enter the output polarizer, which polarizes the light at 45° with respect to the input polarizer. It then passes through the Faraday rotator rod, and the POP is rotated another 45° in the positive direction. This results in a net rotation of 90° with respect to the input polarizer, and thus, the POP is now perpendicular to the transmission axis of the input polarizer. Hence, the light will either be reflected or absorbed.
Polarization-Independent Fiber Isolators
The Forward Mode In a polarization independent fiber isolator, the incoming light is split into two branches by a birefringent crystal (see Figure 3). A Faraday rotator and a half-wave plate rotate the polarization of each branch before they encounter a second birefringent crystal aligned to recombine the two beams.
Click for Details Figure 3. A polarization independent isolator. Light is deflected away from the input path and stopped by the housing.
The Reverse Mode Back-reflected light will encounter the second birefringent crystal and be split into two beams with their polarizations aligned with the forward mode light. The half wave plate is a non-reciprocal rotator, so it will cancel out the rotation introduced by the faraday rotator for the reverse mode light. When the light encounters the input birefringent beam displacer, it will be deflected away from the collimating lens and into the walls of the isolator housing, preventing the reverse mode from entering the input fiber.
Damage Threshold Our isolators typically have higher transmittance and isolation compared to all other isolators on the market. Furthermore, because of certain proprietary features (covered by 25 years of experience and 5 US patents), Thorlabs' isolators are smaller and have higher performance than any units of equivalent aperture available anywhere. For visible to YAG laser Isolators, Thorlabs' Faraday Rotator crystal of choice is TGG (terbium-gallium-garnet), which is unsurpassed in terms of optical quality, Verdet constant, and resistance to high laser power. Thorlabs' TGG Isolator rods have been damage tested to 22.5 J/cm2 at 1064nm in 15 ns pulses (1.5 GW/cm2), and to 20 kW/cm2 CW. However, Thorlabs does not bear responsibility for laser power damage that is attributed to hot spots in the beam.
Magnet The magnet is a major factor in determining the size and performance of an isolator. The ultimate size of the magnet is not simply determined by magnetic field strength but is also influenced by the mechanical design. Many Thorlabs magnets are not simple one piece magnets but are complex assemblies. Thorlabs' modeling systems allow optimization of the many parameters that affect size, optical path length, total rotation, and field uniformity. Thorlabs' US Patent 4,856,878 describes one such design that is used in several of the larger aperture isolators for YAG lasers. Thorlabs emphasizes that a powerful magnetic field exists around these Isolators, and thus, steel or magnetic objects should not be brought closer than 5 cm.
Temperature The magnets and the Faraday rotator materials both exhibit a temperature dependence. Both the magnetic field strength and the Verdet Constant decrease with increased temperature. For operation greater than ±10 °C beyond room temperature, please contact Technical Support.
Pulse broadening occurs anytime a pulse propagates through a material with an index of refraction greater than 1. This dispersion increases inversely with the pulse width and therefore can become significant in ultrafast lasers.
τ: Pulse Width Before Isolator
τ(z): Pulse Width After Isolator
Example: t = 197 fs results in t(z) = 306 fs (pictured to the right) t = 120 fs results in t(z) = 186 fs
OEM and Non-Standard Isolators
In an effort to provide the best possible service to our customers, Thorlabs has made a commitment to ship our most popular free-space and fiber isolator models from stock. We currently offer same-day shipping on more than 90 isolator models. In addition to these stock models, non-stock isolators with differing aperture sizes, wavelength ranges, package sizes, and polarizers are available. These generally have the same price as a similar stock unit. If you would like a quote on a non-stock isolator, please fill out the form below and a member of our staff will be in contact with you.
Thorlabs has many years of experience working with OEM, government, and research customers, allowing us to tailor to specific design requirements that best other manufacturers. In addition to customizing our isolators (see the OEM Application Services list to the right), we also offer various application services.
From 244 - 2800 nma
Up to Ø15 mm
Dependent or Independent
Up to 2 GW/cm²
Up to 60 dB (Tandem Units)
Rotator material, for use in the 244 to 5000 nm range, available separately.
We are able to provide a wide range of flexibility in manufacturing non-stock, free-space isolators. Almost any selection of specifications from our standard product line can be combined to suit a particular need. The table to the right shows the range of specifications that we can meet.
We offer isolators suitable for both narrowband and broadband applications. The size of the housing is very dependent on the desired max power and aperture size, so please include a note in the quote form below if you have special requirements.
We can also offer our Faraday rotator material for use at wavelengths from 244 to 5000 nm.
From 633 - 2050 nma
Dependent or Independent
Max Power (Fiber to Free-Space)
Max Power (Fiber to Fiber)
For wavelengths shorter than 633 nm, we recommend using our free-space isolators in conjunction with our modular FiberBench accessories. Please contact Technical Support for more information.
Thorlabs is uniquely positioned to draw on experience in classical optics, fiber coupling, and isolators to provide flexible designs for a wide range of fiber optic specifications. Current design efforts are focused on increasing the maximum power of our fiber isolators at and near the 1064 nm wavelength. We offer models with integrated ASE filters and taps. The table to the right highlights the range of specifications that we can meet.
The fiber used is often the limiting factor in determining the maximum power the isolator can handle. We have experience working with single mode (SM) and polarization-maintaining fibers (PM); single-, double- and triple-clad fibers; and specialty fibers like 10-to-30 µm LMA fibers and PM LMA fibers.
In the spectral region below 633 nm, we recommend mounting one of our free-space isolators in a FiberBench system. A FiberBench system consists of pre-designed modules that make it easy to use free-space optical elements with a fiber optic system while maintaining excellent coupling efficiency. Upon request, we can provide select stock isolators in an optic mount with twin steel dowel pins for our FiberBench systems, as shown to the left.
We are also in the process of extending our fiber isolator capabilities down into the visible region. For more information, please contact Technical Support.
Please contact us for more information at (973) 300-3000 or by using the form below.
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