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Optics Express

Optics Express

  • Editor: C. Martijn de Sterke
  • Vol. 18, Iss. 2 — Jan. 18, 2010
  • pp: 1450–1461
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All-optical switching in silicon-on-insulator photonic wire nano–cavities

Michele Belotti, Matteo Galli, Dario Gerace, Lucio Claudio Andreani, Giorgio Guizzetti, Ahmad R. Md Zain, Nigel P. Johnson, Marc Sorel, and Richard M. De La Rue  »View Author Affiliations


Optics Express, Vol. 18, Issue 2, pp. 1450-1461 (2010)
http://dx.doi.org/10.1364/OE.18.001450


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Abstract

We report on experimental demonstration of all-optical switching in a silicon-on-insulator photonic wire nanocavity operating at telecom wavelengths. The switching is performed with a control pulse energy as low as ~ 0.1 pJ on a cavity device that presents very high signal transmission, an ultra-high quality-factor, almost diffraction-limited modal volume and a footprint of only 5 μm2. High-speed modulation of the cavity mode is achieved by means of optical injection of free carriers using a nanosecond pulsed laser. Experimental results are interpreted by means of finite-difference time-domain simulations. The possibility of using this device as a logic gate is also demonstrated.

© 2010 Optical Society of America

1. Introduction

One of the major topics of interest in recent photonic research is the study and development of micro- and nano-structures for fast signal processing in the telecom window. These structures are required to be compact and compatible with monolithic integration into a single CMOS chip. The combination of one-dimensional photonic crystal (PhC) structures with narrow waveguides in high refractive index contrast materials, such as silicon-on insulator (SOI), can satisfy all the requirements [1

1. J. Foresi, P. Villeneuve, J. Ferrera, E. Thoen, G. Steinmeyer, S. Fan, J. Joannopoulos, L. Kimerling, H. Smith, and E. Ippen, “Photonic-bandgap microcavities in optical waveguides,” Nature 390, 143 (1997). [CrossRef]

,2

2. D. Miller, “Rationale and challenges for optical interconnects to electronic chips,” Proceedings of IEEE (IEEE , 2000), pp. 728–749. [CrossRef]

].

Fig. 1. Sketch and scanning electron micrograph (SEM) image of the tapered PhC cavity embedded in a PhW waveguide with two mirrors composed by periodically spaced holes and aperiodic taper region inside and outside the cavity. The cavity in SEM picture has 6 holes in each mirror spaced by 350 nm and identical aperiodic taper region inside and outside. The spacings between adjacent holes are 300, 315, and 325 nm respectively. The corresponding hole radii are 65, 80, 85 nm. Finally, we also demonstrate the possibility of performing various gate operations by carefully tuning the probe wavelength with respect to the cavity resonance.

The paper is structured as follows: In Sec. 2 we describe the design and the fabrication of the device. In Sec. 3 we report the FDTD simulations. In Sec. 4 the linear, the resonant scattering characterization and the all-optical switching of the device is reported. We also describe the all-optical logic operation that can be performed with our sample. In Sec. 5 we summarize the main results of the work.

2. Sample description

Fig. 2. Simulated transmission spectra of the device without (black curve) and with (red curve) the pump pulse. The simulated blue-shift is 0.12 nm. In the right inset, a broad-band spectrum is given, showing the cavity resonance within the 1D photonic band gap.

The waveguide patterns were defined using a hydrogen silsesquioxane (HSQ) negative-tone resist spun at 3000 rpm to give 200 nm in thickness. The devices were fabricated using single-step direct-write electron beam lithography in a Vistec VB6 machine at 100 keV electron energy, with proximity correction at a base dose of 1500 μC/cm2 [18

18. A.R. Md Zain, M. Gnan, H. Chong, M. Sorel, and R. De La Rue, “Tapered Photonic Crystal Microcavities Embedded in Photonic Wire Waveguides with large Resonance Quality-Factory and High Transmission,” IEEE Photonics Technol. Lett. 20(1), 6–8 (2008). [CrossRef]

]. This VB6 beam writer has the capability of writing a 1.2 mm by 1.2 mm field at 1.25 nm resolution. In addition, extra care has to be taken to reduce the potentially significant impact of field stitching errors on the pattern produced - i.e. to ensure the flatness of the sample during the writing process. The patterns were finally transferred into the silicon guiding layer by using an inductively-coupled plasma (ICP) etching machine from the STS company. SF6/C4F8 combined chemistry was used to etch the silicon layer, leading to the creation of silicon waveguides with smooth side-walls. The silicon layer is etched for 49 seconds with a silicon etching rate of 5 nm/s and Si/SiO2 selectivity of ~ 10.

3. Simulations

The simulated linear transmission spectra and spatial distribution of the electromagnetic field for the structure presented in Fig. 1 are shown in Fig. 2, as obtained by using a 2D Finite Difference Time-Domain (FDTD) solver. In particular, this structure is made of a 6 holes mirror, together with 3 holes to taper both the mirror and the cavity, which has 425 nm long spacer section (taken from edge-to-edge of the side holes). The spacing between adjacent holes and the hole radii in the taper region are 300,315, 325,65, 80,85 nm, respectively. The fundamental transverse-electric (TE) guided mode of the PhW waveguide is used as an input propagating pulse to study the device transmittance. We first estimated the propagation waveguide mode in the wire waveguide (3D mode solver) and we obtain an effective index of neff = 2.915. We then used such neff for the 2D FDTD simulation of the transmission experiment. A local change in the refractive index of the silicon material around the cavity region is used to simulate the effects of free carrier injection induced by laser pumping at frequencies above the silicon gap. The calculated spectra in Fig. 2 display a high-transmission (~ 90%) resonance at 1502.3 nm for the unperturbed structure, and a 0.1 nm blue-shifted one for the pumped structure. The latter has been simulated with the silicon refractive index reduced by 0.01% (corresponding to a free carriers injection of 4.8 · 1016cm-3) in a 10 μm-wide linear region centered around the cavity (to mimic the focused laser spot onto the silicon wire). In both cases, the calculated Q-factor can be estimated to approach 105. The field intensity for the |Ey|2 and |Hz|2 components is reported in Fig. 3 for off- and in- resonance case, respectively. Out of resonance, at the wavelength of 1500 nm, the light traveling into the guide penetrates the first holes composing the mirror and it is completely reflected backwards. For the resonance case light passes through the mirror and the field is localized in the cavity region. Also the field intensities at resonance are enhanced by ~ 104 as compared to the off-resonance case, as it can be seen from the figure. A 3D FDTD simulation of the cavity mode profile, with excitation by an internal dipole source, gives an effective mode volume Veff = ∫ε(r)|E(r)|2 d r/max{ε(r)|E(r)|2} ≃ 0.1μm3 ~ 1.24(λ/n)3, i.e., the mode volume is very small and close to the diffraction limit, implying strong reduction of power density required for all-optical switching.

Fig. 3. The calculated field intensities at resonance (1502.3 nm) and off resonance (1500 nm) are shown for the |Ey|2 and |Hz|2 component, respectively. Notice the change in scales from off to on resonance.

4. Experimental results

Experimental linear transmission is measured with a continuous wave tunable laser delivered onto the optical set-up by a single-mode polarization maintaining fibre. The incident probe beam is polarized along the plane of periodicity (TE polarization). It is focussed into and collected from the access ridge waveguides by a pair of high numerical aperture objective lenses. The collected signal is then spatially filtered by a single mode optical fiber and by an analyzer to remove spurious substrate guided light. The light is then detected by an amplified InGaAs photodiode connected to a lock-in amplifier. The experimental results were normalized with respect to an identical, but unpatterned, 500 nm wide wire waveguide. The cavity is also characterized by means of crossed-polarization resonant scattering technique [24

24. M. McCutcheon, G. Rieger, I. Cheung, J. Young, D. Dalacu, S. Frèdèrick, P. Poole, G. Aers, and R. Williams, “Resonant scattering and second-harmonic spectroscopy of planar photonic crystal microcavities,” Appl. Phys. Lett. 87, 221,110 (2005). [CrossRef]

,25

25. M. Galli, S. Portalupi, M. Belotti, L. Andreani, L. O∙Faolain, and T. Krauss, “Light scattering and Fano resonances in high-Q photonic crystal nanocavities,” Appl. Phys. Lett. 94, 071101 (2009). [CrossRef]

]. Light from the tunable laser is linearly polarized by a polarizer and focused on the cavity by a high numerical aperture objective. The reflected beam is analyzed by a second polarizer with its polarization axis orthogonal to the first one.

In Fig. 4(a), we show the measured linear transmittance of a fabricated PhC/PhW nano-cavity sample having the same nominal parameters as the structure simulated in Fig. 2. The spectrum shows a strong resonance for the wavelength λ =1483.16 nm with a high signal/background ratio. The inset shows a higher resolution spectrum of the resonance that was used to determine the Q-factor. From the Full-Width Half-Maximum of 16.6 pm we can estimate a loaded Q-factor value of 89,300 corresponding to a photon lifetime of ~67 ps. Normalizing the transmission to the unstructured guide, we estimate a transmission coefficient of about 38%. The same cavity was also characterized by the resonant scattering technique, i.e. normal incidence reflectance with crossed polarizations [24

24. M. McCutcheon, G. Rieger, I. Cheung, J. Young, D. Dalacu, S. Frèdèrick, P. Poole, G. Aers, and R. Williams, “Resonant scattering and second-harmonic spectroscopy of planar photonic crystal microcavities,” Appl. Phys. Lett. 87, 221,110 (2005). [CrossRef]

]. The measured spectrum is reported in Fig. 5. The spectrum presents a very sharp resonance at the same wavelength as observed in the transmission experiment, due to the change in polarization induced by the coupling of the incident light with the cavity [26

26. P. Deotare, M. McCutcheon, I. Frank, M. Khan, and M. Lončar, “High quality factor photonic crystal nanobeam cavities,” Appl. Phys. Lett. 94, 121106 (2009). [CrossRef]

]. By fitting the resonance with a Fano lineshape [25

25. M. Galli, S. Portalupi, M. Belotti, L. Andreani, L. O∙Faolain, and T. Krauss, “Light scattering and Fano resonances in high-Q photonic crystal nanocavities,” Appl. Phys. Lett. 94, 071101 (2009). [CrossRef]

] (red curve in Fig. 5) we can estimate an cavity Q factor of about 120,000 corresponding to a photon lifetime of ~97 ps. The different values of the quality factor are mainly due to two-photon absorption in the cavity in the transmission experiment. In fact the amount of light power coupled to the cavity is higher in the transmission experiment than in resonant scattering one. So in the transmission experiment the two-photon absorption mechanism plays the role of a loss channel, reducing the resonance quality factor.

In Fig. 4(b) we show the linear transmittance of a second device with identical geometrical parameters, except for the cavity length which is 425 nm. Also in this case we can observe a strong resonance at a slightly different wavelength (1502.3 nm) with roughly the same transmission level (about 39 %). From a lorentzian fit we can estimate a FWHM of 23.8 pm that corresponds to a Q-factor of about 63,000, slightly lower than in the first device. By changing the cavity length it is possible to tune the resonance without significant changes in the transmission behavior.

For the switching experiments, optical pumping is performed with a frequency doubled Q-switched Nd:YAG laser at a wavelength of 532 nm with a pulse width of 2.5 ns and a repetition rate of 11 kHz. The pump beam is focused normally to sample surface in a 5 μm spot around the optical cavity using a microscope objective. The pump impinging on the surface generates free carriers optically, which lowers the refractive index of the silicon backbone [12

12. V. Almeida, C. Barrios, R. Panepucci, and M. Lipson, “All-optical control of light on a silicon chip,” Nature 431, 1081–1084 (2004). [CrossRef] [PubMed]

,27–31

27. R. Soref and B. Bennett, “Electrooptical effects in silicon,” IEEE J. Quantum Electron. 23(1), 123–129 (1987). [CrossRef]

]. The pump beam modifies the optical response of the sample only very close to the cavity region, hence reducing the required power to control the transmittance. The transmitted probe signal collected by the avalanche InGaAs detector when pumping the sample is amplified with a voltage amplifier and registered by an oscilloscope operating with 1 GHz bandwidth. Part of the original pump beam is diverted from pump line and used to trigger the oscilloscope. In order to record the switching of the resonance, we track the temporal evolution of the probe beam transmittance at a fixed wavelength (λp) as a function of the pump pulse delay. This operation is repeated for different wavelengths around the cavity mode resonance. Although a pumping scheme with a frequency below that corresponding to the silicon bandgap energy and a pump beam propagating in the waveguide [13

13. T. Tanabe, M. Notomi, S. Mitsugi, A. Shinya, and E. Kuramochi, “All-optical switches on a silicon chip realized using photonic crystal nanocavities,” Appl. Phys. Lett. 87, 151112 (2005). [CrossRef]

] are more suitable for the realistic operation of a fully integrated functional device, the present setup also has definite advantages since there is no need for the cavity design to support more than one resonance. Moreover the time-resolved cavity response can be linked directly to the pump pulse, which does not suffer from possible delay and broadening in waveguide propagation. Notice that in the present pumping configuration the cavity enhancement is proportional to Q/V and that a similar pumping configuration has been used in [12

12. V. Almeida, C. Barrios, R. Panepucci, and M. Lipson, “All-optical control of light on a silicon chip,” Nature 431, 1081–1084 (2004). [CrossRef] [PubMed]

, 21

21. T. Tanabe, M. Notomi, H. Taniyama, and E. Kuramochi, “Dynamic Release of Trapped Light from an Ultrahigh-Q Nanocavity via Adiabatic Frequency Tuning,” Phys. Rev. Lett. 102, 043907 (2009) [CrossRef] [PubMed]

] for the study of optical switching and adiabatic tuning of cavity modes, respectively.

Fig. 4. Transmission spectrum for the sample with 6 holes mirror, 3 holes taper inside and outside the cavity, cavity length of (a) 400 nm and (b) 425 nm, respectively. (a) The spectrum shows a resonance for the wavelength 1483.16 nm with a Q-factor of approximately 89,300. (b) The spectrum shows a strong resonance with a Q-factor of about 63,000 for the wavelength of 1502.3 nm.
Fig. 5. Resonant scattering spectrum of the sample with 6 holes mirror, 3 holes taper inside and outside the cavity, cavity length of 400 nm. The red curve is the Fano lineshape best-fit.

Fig. 6. Time evolution of switching logic operation: (a) NOT operation: the output is high (on-condition) when the control level is low and it switches to low (off-condition) when the control level becomes high. (b) AND operation: the output is low (off-condition) when the control level is low, and it is high (on-condition) when the control is high. (c) Pump intensity as a function of time. The pulse width is 2.5 ns. (d) Scheme of the applied probe and control beam.

The latter configuration, i.e. when the probe is tuned on resonance, corresponds to performing a NOT logic operation, where the control pulse acts as a logic 1 input. The output signal is low only when the control pulse beam is high, i.e. the output is exactly the reciprocal signal of the pump control. Repeating the same procedure for a probe wavelength slightly lower than the resonance wavelength (Δλ = -0.1 nm), we can recover the situation shown in Fig. 6(b). In the latter case, the transmission is zero before the pulse occurs, due to the wavelength filtering performed by the cavity. The transmission increases in coincidence with the pulse due to a blue shift of the cavity mode, yielding a resonance condition with the probe wavelength. After the pulse the signal drops to zero, thereby restoring the initial condition. In this situation we operate a different logic operation that corresponds to an AND gate: only when both inputs are high does the output turn high. A sketch of the logic signals is shown in Fig. 6(d).

Furthermore, taking the temporal behavior at different probe wavelengths (same experimental conditions and normalization procedure as in Fig. 4) makes it possible to reconstruct fully the time dependence of the spectra, as shown in Fig. 7(a) where the temporal transmission change recorded at a fixed wavelength is added to the unperturbed transmittance value at the same wavelength. We also observe, in this case, complete switching during the pulse peak, dominated by the intrinsic time length of the pulse. We can appreciate this more clearly by examining Fig. 7(b), where we trace the temporal shift behavior of the wavelength Δλ max of the resonance maximum extracted from Fig. 7(a). The distinctly stepped behavior is further evidence that all the processes involved (change in the refractive index, free carrier recombination) are faster than our time window. From both figures we can evaluate the shift of the resonance, which is estimated to be ~ 0.12 nm.

Fig. 7. (a) Time resolved evolution of the transmission spectrum when a pump with 2.5 ns duration and 2 pJ energy is applied. The normalized intensity color scale is in linear units. (b) Extracted shift Δλ of the resonance wavelength as a function of time.

The calculated carrier concentration produced by the laser pump fluence can be estimated from the intensity profile of the pump laser beam in the material [37

37. T. G. Euser and W. L. Vos, “Spatial homogeneity of optically switched semiconductor photonic crystals and of bulk semiconductors,” J. Appl. Phys. 97, 043102 (2005). [CrossRef]

]:

Neh=I(z)τpumpħωpump[α+12βI(z)]dz

where I(z) is the intensity profile calculated from the absorption of silicon (the penetration depth is about 800 nm for light at 532 nm), α is the linear absorption coefficient, β the two-photon absorption coefficient, τ pump the pulse width and ħω pump the light energy. Solving the integral on the silicon thickness we obtain a carrier density of 4.8 × 1016 cm-3. The corresponding refractive index variation in the silicon material is calculated through the Drude contribution: [27

27. R. Soref and B. Bennett, “Electrooptical effects in silicon,” IEEE J. Quantum Electron. 23(1), 123–129 (1987). [CrossRef]

,36

36. K. Sokolowski-Tinten and D. von der Linde, “Generation of dense electron-hole plasmas in silicon,” Phys. Rev. B 61, 2643–2650 (2000). [CrossRef]

]:

ε(ω)=εB(ω)+Δεeh(ω)=εB(ω)(ωpω)211+iωτD

being τD the Drude damping time. The carrier density enters the dielectric function variation through the plasma frequency:

ωp=Nehe2ε0memopt

where e is the electronic charge, Neh the free carrier density, me is the electron mass and mopt is the optical effective mass of the carriers in units of the electron mass. If one assumes a density of generated free carriers Neh < 1022 cm-3 , it can be shown [37

37. T. G. Euser and W. L. Vos, “Spatial homogeneity of optically switched semiconductor photonic crystals and of bulk semiconductors,” J. Appl. Phys. 97, 043102 (2005). [CrossRef]

] that the change in refractive index of silicon is given by:

n=n0e22n0ε0moptmeω2Neh.

While the present experiments are performed in a configuration with a control beam incident from the top surface and with a cavity designed for a single resonance, it is interesting to explore the possibility of employing a cavity supporting two resonances (especially with both modes in the telecom window) and designing the whole device for in-plane control beam configuration. This can be done by designing a longer cavity and/or coupled photonic cavities. In both cases the device footprint is expected to increase by at most a cavity length or a few periods of the Bragg mirrors, i.e., by a length of the order of a micron. The slight increase in mode volume would be more than compensated by the scaling of the switching power like Q 2/V (rather than like Q/V in the present experiment). Thus, the present high-Q cavities in silicon-on-insulator photonic wires are very promising for the design of fully integrated all-optical switches with a small footprint.

5. Conclusions

Acknowledgments

This work was supported by the Fondazione CARIPLO under project n. 2007-5259, by the Italian Ministry of Universities and Research through FIRB contract tJRBAP06L4S5 and by the Malaysian Ministry of Education and Science. We are also grateful for the use of the facilities of the James Watt Nanofabrication Centre (JWNC) at the University of Glasgow.

References and links

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OCIS Codes
(130.3750) Integrated optics : Optical logic devices
(230.1150) Optical devices : All-optical devices
(230.5750) Optical devices : Resonators
(130.4815) Integrated optics : Optical switching devices
(130.5296) Integrated optics : Photonic crystal waveguides
(230.5298) Optical devices : Photonic crystals

ToC Category:
Integrated Optics

History
Original Manuscript: November 6, 2009
Revised Manuscript: December 14, 2009
Manuscript Accepted: December 14, 2009
Published: January 12, 2010

Citation
Michele Belotti, Matteo Galli, Dario Gerace, Lucio C. Andreani, Giorgio Guizzetti, Ahmad R. Md Zain, Nigel P. Johnson, Marc Sorel, and Richard M. De La Rue, "All-optical switching in silicon-on-insulator photonic wire nano-cavities," Opt. Express 18, 1450-1461 (2010)
http://www.opticsinfobase.org/oe/abstract.cfm?URI=oe-18-2-1450


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References

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