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Synchronous micromechanically resonant programmable photonic circuits

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posted on 2023-06-08, 16:01 authored by Mark Dong, Julia M. Boyle, Kevin J. Palm, Matthew Zimmermann, Alex Witte, Andrew J. Leenheer, Daniel Dominguez, Gerald Gilbert, Matt Eichenfield, Dirk Englund
Programmable photonic integrated circuits (PICs) are emerging as powerful tools for the precise manipulation of light, with applications in quantum information processing, optical range finding, and artificial intelligence. The leading architecture for programmable PICs is the mesh of Mach-Zehnder interferometers (MZIs) embedded with reconfigurable optical phase shifters. Low-power implementations of these PICs involve micromechanical structures driven capacitively or piezoelectrically but are limited in modulation bandwidth by mechanical resonances and high operating voltages. However, circuits designed to operate exclusively at these mechanical resonances would reduce the necessary driving voltage from resonantly enhanced modulation as well as maintaining high actuation speeds. Here we introduce a synchronous, micromechanically resonant design architecture for programmable PICs, which exploits micromechanical eigenmodes for modulation enhancement. This approach combines high-frequency mechanical resonances and optically broadband phase shifters to increase the modulation response on the order of the mechanical quality factor $Q_m$, thereby reducing the PIC's power consumption, voltage-loss product, and footprint. The architecture is useful for broadly applicable circuits such as optical phased arrays, $1$ x $N$, and $N$ x $N$ photonic switches. We report a proof-of-principle programmable 1 x 8 switch with piezoelectric phase shifters at specifically targeted mechanical eigenfrequencies, showing a full switching cycle of all eight channels spaced by approximately 11 ns and operating at >3x average modulation enhancement across all on-chip modulators. By further leveraging micromechanical devices with high $Q_m$, which can exceed 1 million, our design architecture should enable a new class of low-voltage and high-speed programmable PICs.



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