Single-Core-Multi-Core 3D Photonics Chip Processing

For Scientific Research & Industry Modernisation.

Fiber optical communication has brought about significant changes in the fields of technology and society since its emergence. As a major application of laser technology, laser information technology with fiber optical communication being the main representative, has built the modern framework of communication networks, becoming an important pillar of information transmission. Fiber optical communication technology is one of the core technologies of the information era, driving the Internet world progressing forward.

Since 2005, the development of fiber optical communication technology has entered the era of coherent optical communication, mainly at 40Gbps and 100Gbps. At present, optical communication at the rate of 400Gbps and above has become commercialized. In recent years, after the introduction of coherent detection and digital signal processing technology the combination of various new transmission techniques has made the transmission capacity of single-mode fiber reached its limit.

Industry Challenge

Space division multiplexing technology is an effective solution to achieve increased capacity of a single fiber, where schemes include: to use multi-core fiber for transmission to exponentially increase the capacity of a single fiber, including employing mode division multiplexing technologies such as line polarization mode (LP mode), orbital angular momentum (OAM) beam based on phase singularity and column vector beam (CVB) based on polarization singularity, etc. Such technologies can provide new degrees of freedom for beam multiplexing, increase the capacity of optical communication systems, and have broad application prospects in fiber optical communication. However, the research of related fan-in fan-out 3D photonics chips remains to be a core challenge at present.

Solution Overview

A fan-in-fan-out module with multicore, few-mode fiber is a high-density fiber module where a multicore fiber positions at one end and multiple single-mode (SM) fibers at the other end, with a three-dimensional photonics chip in the middle to enable single-core-multiple-core conversion. The photonics chip utilizes stereoscopic waveguide technology to achieve efficient optical coupling of multicore and single-mode fibers with low insertion loss, low polarization dependent loss, and low crosstalk. It thus enables high-density mode-division multiplexed fiber optical communications and increased-capacity distributed fiber optic sensing applications.

Optical waveguides are the underlying structure of fan-in-fan-out 3D photonic chips. Their waveguide transmission characteristics can effectively eliminate beam divergence, maintaining high optical density and uniform waveguide modes over long transmission lengths. It is conducive to enhancing the interaction between light and waveguide materials and improving the basic optical properties of the substrate. Therefore, the fabrication of low-loss optical waveguide with flexible structures in different optical materials, and hence the realization of multifunctional high-performance waveguide optical devices has been a hot topic for research in photonics chips.

Optical crystal materials are ideal platforms for building multifunctional photonics chips because their diverse lattice structures can exhibit plentiful optical properties. Due to the limitations of the conventional waveguide fabrication process and the complexity of the crystal material structures, it is difficult to construct 3D optical waveguide structures in crystal materials. Nevertheless, the rapidly growing femtosecond laser direct-writing technology in recent years has provided an effective solution.

First, due to the nonlinear absorption mechanism, laser material modification is subject to the volume focused. By scanning, 3D structures that are geometrically complex can be achieved. Second, the material-independent nonlinear absorption process makes it possible to form fine structures such as optical devices in transparent materials. Femtosecond laser nanofabrication is caused by a phenomenon called laser-induced optical breakdown. During this process, the optical energy from a femtosecond laser is transmitted to the processed material, exciting many electrons and causing them to ionize and deliver the energy to the crystal. Subsequently, the material undergoes structural changes causing a permanent change in refractive index, even leaving a hole at the focal point. Using focused femtosecond laser beams interacting with the material, one can induce the refractive index changes in local regions in transparent medium material. Scanning the substrate material enables highly flexible, high-precision, and easy-to-operate three-dimensional nanofabrication, resulting in fabricating structurally flexible and fine photonics devices with channel-structure optical waveguide, allowing the optical properties and integrated characteristics of optical waveguides and crystal materials to be maximized.

This solution scheme uses a femtosecond laser to process optical crystals (including optical glass, lithium niobate crystals, sapphire, etc.) by making the femtosecond pulse tightly focused (using a microscope) inside the optical crystal with a power density of more than several terawatts per square centimeter. It can trigger complex and diverse processes such as simultaneous multiphoton absorption, avalanche, and collisional ionization, resulting in a highly localized modifications, while there is almost no energy deposition. Due to the extremely short pulses of the femtosecond laser, the thermal impact is negligible and hence the process can be called “cold processing”. No cracks are caused so to avoid damage to the optical crystal material. Meanwhile, the three-dimensional nanofabrication is achieved by controlling the position of the laser focus relative to the optical crystal with a high-precision (nano-scale precision) three-dimensional operating stage.

Fig. 1. Waveguide writing under microscope by Innofocus as shown

Fig. 2. Fan-in-fan-out photonic chip processed by Innofocus

Unique competitive advantage

The surface morphology of the optical waveguide fabricated by femtosecond laser is determined by the focus of the laser. Although there are applicable devices for femtosecond fabrication of optical waveguides in the market, due to the elongated morphology of the laser focus along the optical axis, the cross section of the fabricated waveguide is elliptical, which does not help reduce transmission losses. Unlike common laser fabrication systems, NanoPrint 3D intelligent laser nanofabrication system developed by Innofocus introduces a unique optical modulation (also known as beam shaping) technology to achieve a focal point with a nearly circular cross-section by modulating the incident light (supported by an algorithm developed independently by Innofocus), to hence realize fabricating optical waveguides with a circular cross-section and reducing transmission loss effectively.

Customer Value

Due to the nonlinear absorption mechanism, laser material modification is subject to the volume focused. By scanning, 3D structures that are geometrically complex can be achieved.

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Application Scenario

WDM devices; optical communication devices; quantum computer related devices; transparent phase plate fabrication; holographic optical component fabrication.