Indium Phosphide Based Optical Waveguide MEMS for Communications and Sensing

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Indium phosphide (InP) is extensively used for integrated waveguide and photonic devices due to its suitability as a substrate for direct bandgap materials (e.g. In1-XGaXAsYP1-Y) operating at the lambda=1550 nm communications wavelength. However, little work has been reported on InP optical waveguide micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS).

In this work, InP cantilever and doubly-clamped beams were micromachined on an In0.53Ga0.47As "sacrificial layer" on (100) InP substrates. Young's modulus was measured using nanoindentation and microbeam-bending. Intrinsic stress and material uniformity (stress gradient) were obtained by measuring the profile of doubly-clamped and cantilever beams using confocal microscopy. The study resulted in a Young's modulus of 80.4-106.5 GPa (crystal orientation-dependent). Although InP was grown lattice-matched to the substrate, arsenic from the underlying In0.53Ga0.47As sacrificial layer resulted in intrinsic compressive stress. Adding trace amounts of gallium to the InP layer during epitaxial growth induced tensile stress to offset the effect of arsenic.

The materials characterization was extended to develop optical waveguide switches and sensors. In the first device, two parallel waveguides were actuated to vary the spacing between them. By modulating the gap using electrostatic pull-in actuation, the optical coupling strength was controlled via the evanescent field. Low voltage switching (<10 V), high speed (4 us), low crosstalk (-47 dB), and low-loss (<10 %) were achieved. Variable coupling over a 17.4 dB dynamic range was also demonstrated.

The second device utilized a single movable input waveguide, which was actuated via electrostatic comb-drives to end-couple with one of several output waveguides. Low voltage switching (<7 V), 140 us switching speed (2 ms settling time), low crosstalk (-26 dB), and low-loss (<3.2 dB) were demonstrated.

Sensing techniques based on mass-loading were developed using end-coupled cantilever waveguides. Here, the mechanical resonance frequency was measured by actuating the cantilever and measuring the end-coupled optical power at the output waveguide. A proof-of-concept experiment utilized a focused-ion-beam to mill the cantilever tip and resulted in a measurable resonance shift with mass-sensitivity delta_m/delta_f=5.1 fg/Hz. The cantilever waveguide devices and measurement techniques enable accurate resonance detection in mass-based cantilever sensors and also enable single-chip sensors with on-chip optical detection to be realized.