InGaAsP/InP quantum-well electrorefractive modulators with sub-volt V[pi]
April 12, 2004
SPIE Vol. 5435, Enabling Photonic Technologies for Aerospace Applications VI, 12-16 April 2004, pp. 53-63.
Advanced analog-optical sensor, signal processing and communication systems could benefit significantly from wideband (DC to > 50 GHz) optical modulators having both low half-wave voltage (V[pi]) and low optical insertion loss. An important figure-of-merit for modulators used in analog applications is TMAX/V[pi], where TMAX is the optical transmission of the modulator when biased for maximum transmission. Candidate electro-optic materials for realizing these modulators include lithium niobate (LiNbO3), polymers, and semiconductors, each of which has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. In this paper, we report the development of 1.5-um-wavelength Mach-Zehnder modulators utilizing the electrorefractive effect in InGaAsP/InP symmetric, uncoupled semiconductor quantum-wells. Modulators with 1-cm-long, lumped-element electrodes are found to have a push-pull V[pi] of 0.9V (V[pi]L = 9 V-mm) and 18-dB fiber-to-fiber insertion loss (TMAX/V[pi] = 0.018). Fabry-Perot cutback measurements reveal a waveguide propagation loss of 7 dB/cm and a waveguide-to-fiber coupling loss of 5 dB/facet. The relatively high propagation loss results from a combination of below-bandedge absorption and scattering due to waveguide-sidewall roughness. Analyses show that most of the coupling loss can be eliminated though the use of monolithically integrated invertedtaper optical-mode converters, thereby allowing these modulators to exceed the performance of commercial LiNbO3 modulators (TMAX/V[pi] ~ 0.1). We also report the analog modulation characteristics of these modulators.