Digital Metamaterials Reduce Device Size of Integrated Photonics

Today’s high-bandwidth communications rely on optical signals ferried via optical fibers and processed using discrete optical devices and integrated electronics. Processing these signals on integrated photonic devices, instead, can increase speed and reliability while reducing power consumption and cost. However, compared to integrated electronic devices, integrated photonic devices are large because the wavelength of light is larger than the equivalent wavelength of electrons. For example, a conventional integrated polarization beam-splitter (PBS) can be as large as 100μm2. These large sizes fundamentally limit the integration density and overall circuit functionality.

Plasmonic designs for smaller PBS devices have been proposed, but absorption reduces their efficiency.1–3 Devices using photonic bandgaps have also been demonstrated but they are not compatible with standard silicon waveguides.4, 5 Metamaterials—materials engineered with subcomponents smaller than the wavelength of the radiation they are designed to manipulate, providing properties not yet found in nature—offer the potential for new types of very small photonic devices.Read more


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