Optomechanical fiber-optic attenuators are bulky and slow. The mechanical antireflection switch (MARS) modulator offers a high-speed alternative for applications including dynamic gain control in fiber amplifiers. This paper describes a compact electrically controlled variable attenuator using a micromechanical device where electrostatic deflection of a silicon nitride quarter-wave dielectric layer suspended over a silicon substrate creates a variable reflectivity mirror. This device is packaged with two fibers in one ceramic ferrule placed in contact with a gradient index (GRIN) collimation lens, so that the input light reflects from the modulator in the collimated beam plane and couples into the output fiber. Using a 300 \mum diameter MARS attenuator and a 500 \mum diameter collimation lens, the total insertion loss at 1550 nm was 3.0 dB with no applied voltage, increasing to 31 dB at 35.2 V. The polarization dependent loss was less than 0.06 dB. Full attenuation with more than 100 mW input power produced no damage. The response time was 2.8 \mus to move from maximum to minimum transmission and 1.1 \mus to return to maximum transmission.
Joseph E. Ford, James A. Walker, Dennis S. Greywall, and Keith W. Goossen, "Micromechanical Fiber-Optic Attenuator with 3 s Response," J. Lightwave Technol. 16, 1663- (1998)