We report propagation loss measurements in single-mode GaAs-AlGaAs racetrack microresonators with bending radii from 2.7 m to 9.7 m. The experimental data were found to be in good agreement with a physical-loss model which accounts for the bending loss, the scattering loss due to surface roughness on the waveguide sidewalls, and the transition loss at the straight-to-bend waveguide junctions. The model also enables us to identify the dominant loss mechanisms in semiconductor microcavities. We found that for racetracks with large bending radii (greater than 4 m, in our case) the loss due to surface-roughness scattering in the curved waveguides dominates,whereas for small-radius rings, the modal mismatch at the straight-to-bend waveguide junctions causes the biggest loss. This result suggests that circular-shaped rings are preferable in the realization of ultrasmall low-loss microcavities. We also show that the round-trip propagation loss in small-radius racetrack microresonators can be minimized by introducing a lateral offset at the straight-to-bend waveguide junctions.


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