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Optoelectromechanical Switch And Programming An Optical Network

Published Patent Application Numer: 2022/0035225 A1


Combining reprogrammable optical networks with CMOS electronics is expected to provide a platform for technological developments in on-chip integrated optoelectronics. Our invention demonstrates how opto-electro-mechanical effects in micrometer-scale hybrid-photonic-plasmonic structures enable light switching under CMOS voltages and low optical losses (0.1 dB). Rapid (e.g. tens of nanosecond) switching is achieved by an electrostatic, nanometer-scale perturbation of a thin, and thus low-mass, gold membrane that forms an air-gap hybrid-photonic-plasmonic waveguide. Confinement of the plasmonic portion of the light to the variable-height air gap yields a strong opto-electro-mechanical effect, while photonic confinement of the rest of the light minimizes optical losses. The demonstrated hybrid architecture provides a route to develop for the first time applications for CMOS-integrated, reprogrammable optical systems such as optical neural networks for deep learning.

patent description

Compact and energy-efficient programmable optical networks (PON) have the potentialto extend current electrical information processing networks by new and unique functionalities such as optical neural networks used for pattern recognition at the speed of light (e.g. cancer screening); all-optical data routing in server farms, and integrated optical circuits to miniaturize tabletop quantum systems to microchip size. In optics, light is manipulated to transmit information million times faster than electronics, while promising minimal heat dissipation. And heating is the major issue for existing data center and integrated circuits. The fundamental challenge is that information can only be effectively stored electrically, and thus PONs need to be co-integrated with electronics. This co-integration is challenging as the latter has matured over decades and transistors – the work horse of electronics – are approaching the atomic level. Contrarily, thermoelectro- optical switching units – the work horse of current PONs – are millimeters long and dissipate intolerable level of heat even in standby. In order to enable PON micrometer sized electro-optic switches are needed that can be reprogrammed using the limited CMOS voltage-levels provided by electronics, while keeping optical losses at a minimum.

Created September 21, 2022, Updated December 14, 2023