Silicon nanomembranes for optical phased array (OPA) applications
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Theory, design, fabrication and characterization of on-chip optical beam steering systems are presented in this dissertation. Silicon photonics is being considered for integration with conventional CMOS technology for large-band width and low loss on and off-chip communications. We choose silicon nanomembrane, or silicon-on-insulator (SOI) substrates for implementation of large-angle and agile beam steeres. While working on the targeted device, we contributed to the theory, modeling, engineering and implementation of different building blocks. Multimode-interference couplers (MMIs) constitute important parts of this dissertation. These devices are commonly used as on-chip beam splitters, optical switches and on-chip static phase shifters. The MMIs’ principles of operation are suited in more details and design rules are derived for the first time. MMI based beam splitters with number of outputs as large as 12 are fabricated and tested on SOI wafers. Traditionally, MMIs devices were designed by means of computationally expensive numerical simulations. Numerically and experimentally, we show that our analytical design rules make design of MMIs with low insertion loss and highly uniform outputs possible without additional optimization processes. Optical phased arrays include phase shifter blocks. In the first prototype, we use micro-heaters for tuning the optical phase. The bread-loafing effect, which is generally considered an undeniable phenomenon in the silicon industry, is engineered to realize a mechanical structure to efficiently direct heat toward the silicon waveguides. We also investigate slow light photonic crystal based delay lines to be used as phase shifters. An important drawback of such devices is the low coupling efficiency between slow-light photonic crystal waveguides and fast light strip waveguides. We numerically and experimentally investigate the coupling efficiency, and show for the first time that a few-period long fast-light photonic crystal waveguide without any group index tapering suffices for efficient coupling. The prototype is fabricated, packaged and tested and optical beam steering angle over ±30degrees is demonstrated. Finally, preliminary investigations for 3D implementation of the beam steerer system are presented to clarify the approaches to take for future works.