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A High-Speed Electro-Optical Modulator for Controlling Light Communications on Silicon Chips

Electro-optical modulators, devices that can electrically control the transmission of light signals, are one of the most important components in the integration of photonic and electronic devices. Decreasing the size of electro-optical modulators may enable compact, high-performance electronic chips that use light pulses to communicate data between electrical circuits. CNS researchers, using very small structures fabricated into a silicon chip, have experimentally demonstrated the first high-speed silicon electro-optical modulator. The modulator is based on a light-confining ring structure that enhances the sensitivity of the light transmission to the effects of applied electrical signals. Since the device is small the result is very-high-speed modulation of an optical signal. The modulator is 12 micrometers in diameter, three orders of magnitude smaller than any previously demonstrated.


Schematic of an optical transmission waveguide (black line) coupled to an optical ring resonator (black circle) with an embedded control diode (yellow).



A picture of a fabricated device together with metal contacts. When the voltage on the control diode is changed, the amount of light that transmits down the optical waveguide is strongly modulated

[Lead CNS Investigator: M. Lipson]

For additional information see:

  • Preble, S. F., Xu, Q., Schmidt, B. S. and Lipson, M., “Ultrafast all-optical modulation on a silicon chip”, Optics Letters, Vol. 30, 2891-2893, 01 Nov. 2005.
  • M. Lipson, "Guiding, Modulating and Emitting Light on Silicon- Challenges and Opportunities", IEEE Journal of Lightwave Technologies, Vol 23, 2005.
  • V. Almeida, Q. Xu, and M. Lipson, “Ultrafast integrated semiconductor optical modulator based on the plasma-dispersion effect”, Optics Letters, Vol. 30, pp. 2403-2405, 2005.
  • Xu, Q., Schmidt, B., Pradhan, S. and Lipson, M., “Micrometer-scale Silicon Electro-Optic Modulator”, Nature, Vol. 435, pp. 325-327, 2005.
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