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Light modulation in Silicon photonics by PZT actuated acoustic waves

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posted on 2023-01-12, 14:41 authored by Irfan Ansari, John P. George, Gilles F. Feutmba, Tessa Van de Veire, Awanish Pandey, Jeroen Beeckman, Dries Van Thourhout
Tailoring the interaction between light and sound has opened new possibilities in photonic integrated circuits (PICs) that ranges from achieving quantum control of light to high-speed information processing. However, the actuation of sound waves in Si PICs usually requires integration of a piezoelectric thin film. Lead Zirconate Titanate (PZT) is a promising material due to its strong piezoelectric and electromechanical coupling coefficient. Unfortunately, the traditional methods to grow PZT on Silicon are detrimental for photonic applications due to the presence of an optical lossy intermediate layer. In this work, we report integration of a high quality PZT thin film on a Silicon-on-insulator (SOI) photonic chip using an optically transparent buffer layer. We demonstrate acousto-optic modulation in Silicon waveguides with the PZT actuated acoustic waves. We fabricate inter digital transducers (IDTs) on the PZT film with a contact photo-lithography and electron-beam lithography to generate the acoustic waves in MHz and GHz range respectively. We obtain a V$_{\pi}$L $\sim$ 3.35 V$\cdot$cm at 576 MHz from a 350 nm thick gold (Au) IDT with 20 finger-pairs. After taking the effect of mass-loading and grating reflection into account, we measured a V$_{\pi}$L $\sim$ 3.60 V$\cdot$cm at 2 GHz from a 100 nm thick Aluminum (Al) IDT consisting of only 4 finger-pairs. Thus, without patterning the PZT film nor suspending the device, we obtained figures-of-merit comparable to state-of-the-art modulators based on SOI, making it a promising candidate for broadband and efficient acousto-optic modulator for future integration.

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