Abstract

Coupling of light between different photonic devices, for example on-chip waveguides, fibers, and free-space optical elements, is an essential function enabling integrated optical systems. Efficient optical coupling demands matching the optical mode profiles and effective indices between two devices, and often changing propagation direction of the light. To date, such coupling is pre-dominantly accomplished via direct butt coupling of two devices, or meticulously optimized diffraction gratings. In this article, we present a new coupling scheme based on microfabricated free-form optical reflectors. The free-form reflector simultaneously achieves the functions of light beam re-directing and shaping (for mode matching), and can be versatilely adapted for coupling between photonic chips, fibers, and free-space surface-incident devices. We show that this technology uniquely fulfills all key performance requirements for optical interfaces with exceptionally low coupling loss (0.2–0.3 dB per coupler), large bandwidth (over half an octave), high density (large 2-D coupler arrays), polarization diversity, and superior alignment tolerance commensurate with passive alignment techniques. Preliminary experimental validation demonstrates waveguide-to-fiber coupling with a low insertion loss (IL) of 0.9 dB. We foresee that the technology will become a promising solution to the chip-level photonic interconnection and packaging challenges plaguing integrated photonics.

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