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Design and characterization of optical phased array with half-wavelength spacing

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posted on 20.12.2021, 13:54 by Ziyun KongZiyun Kong
Integrated optical phased arrays (OPAs) have gained popularity for achieving beam steering with no moving parts and potential high speed and small beam divergence angle. These characteristics are crucial for applications like free-space communication and light detection and ranging (LiDAR), a key component in autonomous driving. Two main aspects that affect the performance of an integrated OPA are discussed: high power handling and large beam steering range.

High emission power from the OPA is desirable for long range detection applications. Silicon is broadly used in integrated OPA designs as it allows for structures with a more compact footprint. However, its power-handling capability is limited by the two-photon absorption of the material, resulting in higher loss and potential damage at high input power levels. In this work, high power delivery into free space is realized by using a silicon nitride (SiN) and silicon hybrid platform. SiN components are used to direct and split high input power into smaller portions and coupled into silicon components for a more compact emitter array.

In order to achieve a full 180-degree beam steering range with aliasing-free operation, the pitch of a periodic emitter array is required to be half of the operating wavelength or less. At such a small pitch, evanescent coupling between adjacent emitters causes strong crosstalk. We demonstrate the optical phased array based on uniform half-wavelength spaced grating emitter array. Two-dimensional beam confinement and a record-high aliasing-free beam steering field-of-view of 135 degrees from grating emitter are measured from a 32 channel SiN/Si hybrid OPA. Evanescent coupling between waveguides are suppressed by metamaterial-based extreme skin-depth (e-skid) waveguides. The e-skid waveguides utilize an alternating air-silicon multi-fin side cladding. The high index contrast of those sub-wavelength ridges provides strong anisotropy, which leads to faster decay of the evanescent wave for transverse electric (TE) input modes, thus limiting evanescent coupling between closely spaced waveguides.

Furthermore, we extend the concept of the half-wavelength-pitched emitter array to the design of a two-dimensional end-fire OPA. This OPA can potentially achieve 180-degree by 180-degree full-range beam steering with no grating lobes by having a half-wavelength emitter pitch in both dimensions. The design of a broadband 8 by 8 silicon photonics switch based on the half-wavelength-pitched emitter array with low path-dependent loss (PDL) is also discussed.


Degree Type

Doctor of Philosophy


Electrical and Computer Engineering

Campus location

West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Minghao Qi

Additional Committee Member 2

Andrew M. Weiner

Additional Committee Member 3

Peter A. Bermel

Additional Committee Member 4

Weng Cho Chew