A new type of light modulator, the deformable grating modulator, based on electrically controlling the amplitude of a micromachined phase grating is described. Mechanical motion of one quarter of a wavelength is sufficient for switching in this device. The small mechanical motion allows the use of structures with high mechanical resonance frequencies. We have developed a deformable grating modulator with a bandwidth of 1.8 MHz and a switching voltage of 3.2 V and have demonstrated modulation with 16 dB of contrast. Smaller devices with bandwidths of as much as 6.1 MHz and predicted switching voltages of less than 10 V were also fabricated.
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