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All-Optical Modulation in a Silicon Waveguide Based on a Single-Photon Process

Research Area: Nanophotonics Year: 2008
Type of Publication: Article Keywords: integrated optics, nonlinear optics, optical modulation
Authors: Baehr-Jones, Tom; Hochberg, Michael; Scherer, Axel
Journal: IEEE Journal of Selected Topics in Quantum Electronics Volume: 14
Number: 5 Pages: 1335-1342
Month: September
All-optical, low-power modulation is a major goal in photonics. Because of their high mode-field concentration and ease of manufacturing, nanoscale silicon waveguides offer an intriguing platform for photonics. So far, all-optical modulators built with silicon photonic circuits have relied on either two-photon absorption or the Kerr effect. Both effects are weak in silicon, and require extremely high (~5 W) peak optical power levels to achieve modulation. Here, we describe an all-optical Mach-Zehnder modulator based on a single-photon absorption (SPA) process, fabricated entirely in silicon. Our SPA modulator is based on a process by which a single photon at 1.55 mum is absorbed and an apparently free-carrier-mediated process causes an index shift in silicon, even though the photon energy does not exceed that of silicon's bandgap. We demonstrate all-optical modulation with a gate response of 1deg/mW at 0.5 Gb/s. This is over an order of magnitude more responsive than typical previously demonstrated devices. Even without resonant enhancement, further engineering may enable all optical modulation with less than 10 mW of gate power required for complete extinction, and speeds of 5 Gb/s or higher.
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