We present a dispersion engineered slow light silicon-based photonic crystal waveguide PIN modulator. Low-dispersion slow light transmission over 18nm bandwidth under the silica light line with a group index of 26.5 is experimentally confirmed. We investigate the variations of the modulator figure of merit, Vπ × L, as a function of the optical carrier wavelength over the bandwidth of the fundamental photonic crystal waveguide defect mode. A large signal operation with a record low maximum Vπ × L of 0.0464 V⋅mm over the low-dispersion optical spectral range is demonstrated. We also report the device operation at 2GHz.
©2012 Optical Society of America
Slow light in photonic crystal waveguides (PCWs) has been extensively studied for potential on-chip applications such as optical delay lines and enhanced non-linearity due to increased light-matter interaction [1-3]. Ultra-compact on-chip photonic devices can be realized by exploiting the enhanced light-matter interaction provided by the slow light operation . However, the narrow optical bandwidth of non-engineered PCW slabs due to their highly dispersive group velocity in the slow light regime restricts their applications . For example, a PCW Mach-Zehnder modulator operating with RF bandwidth as high as 10 Gb⋅s−1 was recently reported, with an optical wavelength range of only 0.7 nm [6-7]. Also, an electro-optic polymer refilled double heterostructure slotted PCW was shown to enable optical modulation over 0.7 nm optical wavelength range . Therefore, in order to cover about 20 nm optical bandwidth in a typical integrated dense wavelength-division multiplexing (DWDM) system, several different designs will be necessary. In order to avoid having different PCW modulators for operation at each optical wavelength, a PCW modulator that can achieve slow light operation over a large bandwidth is required. A low-voltage and high speed optical modulator based on band-engineered slotted PCWs refilled with an electro-optic polymer was theoretically investigated in . High-yield and repeatable low-dispersion slow-light devices can be achieved by fabrication-friendly dispersion engineering of PCWs with only a single hole size [10-12]. A band-engineered thermo-optic modulator with 10 nm optical wavelength range was demonstrated in . Additionally, insertion of a group-index-taper coupler between the conventional strip waveguides and the low group velocity PCWs is necessary in order to efficiently couple light into and out of the device . It was recently shown that due to the existence of the evanescent modes at the boundary between two photonic crystals with different group indices , short (8-16 periods) step-couplers can be used for efficient coupling between single mode silicon strip waveguides and low-dispersion slow light PCWs .
In optical interconnects, the link Noise Figure can be reduced by increasing the slope-efficiency of the modulation device without jeopardizing the bandwidth . For a Mach–Zehnder modulator biased at quadrature, the slope efficiency is given as17]. It is also crucial to reduce the optical modulator length (L) to minimize the RC time constant for lumped electrode structure and the RF and optical signals velocity mismatch effect, as well as the RF loss for traveling wave electrode structure . Overall, it is desirable to minimize the optical modulator Vπ × L metric.
In this paper, we report a Mach Zehnder Interferometer (MZI) modulator based on a low-dispersion slow-light PCW with step couplers with the lowest Vπ × L reported for a PCW based modulator to the best of our knowledge. We also investigate the variation of Vπ × L as a function of the optical carrier wavelength, and experimentally confirm a low and nearly constant Vπ × L over the low-dispersion slow light transmission region. Modulation operation up to 2 GHz is also experimentally confirmed using lumped electrodes.
2. Design and simulation
A schematic of the band engineered PCW is shown in Fig. 1(a) . The lattice constant is a = 392 nm. The thickness of the silicon layer and the buried oxide layers are 250 nm and 3 µm, respectively. Refractive indices of the top cladding, core layer, and the bottom cladding materials are nair = 1, nSi = 3.47, nSiO2 = 1.45, respectively. Dispersion engineering is done by shifting the 3 innermost rows parallel to the defect line  with the parameters s1, s2, and s3, as depicted in Fig. 1(a). Figure 2(b) shows the simulated band diagram for the dispersion engineered PCW with dW = 0, s1 = 0, s2 = −0.05a, s3 = 0.25a, and r = 0.27a, where dW is the change in the width of the defect line with respect to a W1 PCW, and r is the hole radius. Variations of the group index (ng) and group velocity dispersion (GVD) as functions of the wavelength are shown in Figs. 2(c) and 2(d), respectively. Group index ng = 26.7 ± 10% over a bandwidth of 18 nm (1539 nm~1557 nm), corresponding to delay–normalized bandwidth product of ng(∆ω/ω) = 0.31, is achieved.
In order to efficiently couple light into and out of the PCW from the input and output strip silicon waveguides, 8-period long PCW step couplers (dW = 0.15a, s1 = 0, s2 = 0, s3 = 0, and r = 0.27a) are designed to interface the input and output strip waveguide to the slow light PCW . The band diagram of the PCW coupler is depicted in Fig. 1(b) that shows an overlap between the low-dispersion slow-light bandwidth of the engineered PCW and the low-dispersion fast-light bandwidth of the PCW coupler. Although the usable part of the band of the step coupler lies slightly above the silica light line, both numerical and experimental results show that the silica bottom cladding causes negligible radiation loss for a small number of periods (~<20) [16- 19].
In order to design a MZI modulator, one notices that utilizing the perturbation theory, the required length (L) of the MZI to achieve a π phase shift is given as Fig. 2(a), and the doping profile is shown in Fig. 2(b).
In our previous demonstrations of PIN modulator, an intrinsic region width WI of 4 µm was chosen and device operation up to 1 GHz was successfully demonstrated [4-16]. In order to push the operating speed beyond 1 GHz, and as a compromise between the switching speed and the propagation loss, for this work, we choose WI of 3.2 µm [20-21].
Normally, the modal field profile changes drastically with wavelength near the band-edge  resulting in wavelength dependent σ. We notice a beneficial feature of the dispersion engineering, that is, constant group index over large optical bandwidth relatively distant from the band-edge. Therefore, we expect the PCW MZI to have similar characteristics (ng and σ) over the entire low-dispersion slow light bandwidth.
A symmetric MZI is designed by placing two 98 µm long PCWs (including 6.3 µm couplers) at the two arms. 1x2 Multimode Mode Interference couplers (MMIs) are used for beam splitting/combining, as shown in Fig. 3(a) . One of the PCWs is doped to from a PIN, as shown in Fig. 3(b). The length of the electrodes is slightly less than that of the slow light PCWs to avoid break-down due to the generation of dense currents along the edges of PCWs, as discussed in .
The modulator is fabricated on a Uni-bond silicon-on-insulator wafer with a 250 nm top silicon layer and 3 µm buried oxide layer. Photonic crystal waveguides, photonic crystal couplers and strip waveguides are patterned in one step using a JEOL JBX-6000FS electron-beam lithography system followed by reactive ion etching. The windows for P+ and N+ implantation were opened by photolithography. Ion implantations of Boron at 30 KeV (surface concentration of 3.00 × 1014/cm2) and phosphorus at 50 KeV (surface concentration of 1.72 × 1014/cm2) were performed to obtain an average doping concentration of about 5 × 1019 cm−3. Thermal rapid annealing for 1 min at 950 °C in a flowing nitrogen environment was performed afterwards to anneal the lattice defects and activate the implanted ions.
Electrode contact windows were then opened by photolithography and the native oxide inside the windows was removed. Aluminum electrodes were made by electron-beam evaporation and a subsequent lift off process. Finally, an ohmic contact was formed by post metallization annealing at a temperature of 400 °C for 30 mins . SEM images of the fabricated PCW on one arm of the fabricated modulator device are also shown in Fig. 3.
4. Device characterization
The group index of a single PCW is determined through on-chip Fourier transform spectral interferometer, as previously reported . Figure 4(a) shows the measured group index as a function of wavelength. Our results indicate a low-dispersion (with less than ± 10% fluctuations in group index) transmission over 18 nm bandwidth (1539 nm~1557 nm) with an average group index of 26.5. Figure 4(a) also shows the transmission characteristics of a single photonic crystal waveguide (including PCW couplers) obtained by coupling a Transverse Electric (TE)-polarized light from a broadband amplified spontaneous emission (ASE) source covering 1520~1620 nm into the Fourier transform spectral interferometer . The transmission data is normalized to the output spectrum of a single mode waveguide. The insertion loss of a single PCW (excluding fiber-waveguide coupling losses and propagation loss inside silicon waveguides) is determined to be 3.8 ± 1.1 dB over the low dispersion bandwidth (1539 nm~1557 nm) .
The total insertion loss (fiber-to-fiber) is 19.8dB, which includes 7dB Fiber-to-strip waveguide coupling loss per facet, 3dB insertion loss for each MMI, and 3.8dB insertion loss for the PCW. From data mentioned above, one can see that the loss mainly comes from the fiber-to-waveguide coupling.
Before performing the modulation tests, we first performed static tests on the fabricated modulator devices. The static characteristic of the PIN diode obtained using Agilent B1500a semiconductor parameter analyzer is shown in Fig. 4(b). The forward linear resistance is ~200 Ohm.
Measurements of the figure of merit Vπ × L and data transmission, described below, are carried out by coupling light from a TE-polarized tunable laser (Santec MLS-2000) into the device through butt coupling and tuning to λ = 1550.48 nm. The modulated output is detected with a gain switchable photodetector (Thorlab PDA10CS) and displayed on the oscilloscope (Agilent 86100A). The voltage Vπ required to produce a carrier injection-induced π phase shift is measured by applying a 100 kHz triangular electrical drive signal, as shown in Fig. 5(a) , to a MZI modulator with 80 μm long active arm under a forward bias Vbias = 1.25 V. The drive amplitude is increased until the slope of the modulated optical signal changed sign at the peaks/troughs of the drive waveform, as illustrated in Fig. 5(a) . A complete half-period of optical modulation is observed for a peak-to-peak applied voltage of Vπ = 0.58 V, leading to a figure of merit of Vπ × L = 0.0464 V⋅mm, which is less than one third of the lowest Vπ × L for a PCW modulator reported so far .
Next, by tuning the optical carrier wavelength over the C band (1520 nm-1560 nm), we obtained variations of Vπ versus optical wavelength as shown in Fig. 5(b). Due to Fabry-Perot oscillations caused by the input and output facets and also back reflections at the MMI's and PCW's interfaces with the strip waveguides, the output optical power fluctuates with wavelength over the low-dispersion bandwidth. At wavelengths that correspond to the peaks of the Fabry-Perot oscillations, the output optical power is high and we are able to observe clear over-modulations [see Fig. 5(b)]. From the over-modulated signal, we were able to deduce the Vπ value.
According to Eq. (2), at a constant L, since δn is linearly proportional to Vπ, one can showFig. 4(a). Interestingly, the group index slightly increases at shorter wavelengths over the low-dispersion slow light bandwidth (λ≥1539nm); one notices that the Vπ slightly decreases at shorter wavelengths over the low-dispersion slow light bandwidth consistent with Eq. (2) (λ≥1539nm).
The rectangular electrical signal for GHz operation is generated through Agilent 8133A 3 GHz pulse generator. The Vbias is 1.25 V and the Vpp is 1.50 V. The output optical signal is amplified by erbium-doped fiber amplifier and converted to electrical signal by a 22 GHz photodetector (DSC30S). The waveform is captured by Agilent 86100A as shown in Fig. 5(c). We were able to achieve 2 GHz operating speed using 80 μm long lumped electrodes. Due to excess noise generated by our EDFA, we were unable to accurately determine the extinction ratio of our modulator device.
In conclusion, an ultra low-power, large bandwidth photonic-crystal-waveguide-based silicon Mach Zehnder modulator was proposed and demonstrated. The modulator arms consisted of our designed band-engineered slow light photonic crystal waveguide, which demonstrated a large group index of 26.5 over an 18 nm bandwidth. By embedding the photonic crystal waveguide in a PIN diode structure, modulation operation with a record-low Vπ × L of 0.0464 V.mm via carrier injection into an 80 µm long active section was experimentally demonstrated. The modulator Vπ × L remains nearly constant over the low-dispersion slow-light bandwidth. Using the same structure, a maximum modulator operation up to 2GHz was also obtained. Further improvement in devices performance is expected by optimizing the electrical and optical design of the MZI structure.
This research was supported by AFOSR Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) under Grant No. FA9550-11-C-0014 (Program Manager - Dr. Gernot Pomrenke).
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