Laser direct-write of optical components prepared using the sol-gel process

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Date

2004

Authors

Ruizpalacios, Rodrigo

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Abstract

Research in manufacturing techniques for novel and cost effective optical components has focused on versatile new materials and low temperature processing. The laser direct-write of sol-gel optical films has the potential for addressing these two needs for the fabrication of photonic components for rapid prototyping purposes. The combination of Solid Freeform Fabrication (SFF) and Direct-Write (DW) approaches to manufacturing, along with the use of high optical quality materials prepared by the sol-gel process, can result in optical components produced with maskless techniques and with the potential of being used as real products. The fundamental approach in this research consisted in four steps. Initially the sol was synthesized under controlled atmospheric conditions. This was followed by the deposition of the sol-gel thin films by spin coating. After deposition the film was thermally and in some cases chemically treated. The final step involved the use of a laser source for photothermal or photochemical processing of the film, translating the sample through an XY stage. This research provides a detailed study of the preparation procedures of various sol-gel materials (inorganic and hybrid organic/inorganic), with the goal of developing a repeatable and reliable process of high optical quality films. The main experimental aspects explored were the synthesis, deposition, thermal and laser processing of the sol-gel materials. It also presents experimental results that demonstrate light propagation through a simple waveguide made by the proposed process. In addition, this research provides an example of the importance of using design methodology and systems design techniques, as effective strategies for the development of innovative manufacturing processes that involve a great number of parameters. The results of this research set the groundwork for the development of a fully automated direct-write SFF machine that is capable of depositing high optical quality sol-gel films, thermally treating the films, and using a laser to direct-write the structures on inorganic or hybrid organic/inorganic glassy matrices.

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