Study on electroabsorption modulators and grating couplers for optical interconnects

Abstract: Decades of efforts have pushed the replacement of electrical interconnects by optical links to the interconnects between computers, racks and circuit boards. It may be expected that optical solutions will further be used for inter-chip and intra-chip interconnects with potential benefits in bandwidth, capacity, delay, power consumption and crosstalk. Silicon integration is emerging to be the best candidate nowadays due to not only the dominant status of silicon in microelectronics but also the great advantages brought to the photonic integrated circuits (PICs). Regarding the recent breakthroughs concerning active devices on silicon substrate, the question left is no longer the feasibility of the optical interconnects based on silicon but the competitiveness of the silicon device compared with other alternatives. This thesis focuses on the study of two key components for the optical interconnects, both especially designed and fabricated for silicon platform. One is a high speed electroabsorption modulator (EAM), realized by transferring an InP-based segmented design to the hybrid silicon evanescent platform. The purpose here is to increase the speed of the silicon PICs to over 50  Gb/s or more. The other one is a high performance grating coupler, with the purpose to improve the optical interface between the silicon PICs and the outside fiber-based communication system. An general approach based on the transmission line analysis has been developed to evaluate the modulation response of an EAM with a lumped, traveling-wave, segmented or capacitively-loaded configuration. A genetic algorithm is used to optimize its configuration. This method has been applied to the design of the EAMs on hybrid silicon evanescent platform. Based on the comparison of various electrode design, segmented configuration is adopted for the target of a bandwidth over 40 GHz with as low as possible voltage and high extinction ratio. In addition to the common periodic analysis, the grating coupler is analyzed by the antenna theory assisted with an improved volume-current method, where the directionality of a grating coupler can be obtained analytically. In order to improve the performance of the grating coupler, a direct way is to address its shortcoming by e.g. increasing the coupling efficiency. For this reason, a nonuniform grating coupler with apodized grooves has been developed with a coupling efficiency of 64%, nearly a double of a standard one. Another way is to add more functionalities to the grating coupler. To do this, a polarization beam splitter (PBS) based on a bidirectional grating coupler has been proposed and experimentally demonstrated. An extinction ratio of around -20 dB, as well as a maximum coupling efficiency of over 50% for both polarizations, is achieved by such a PBS with a Bragg reflector underneath.

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