Feb 23, 2024

Dynamic light manipulation via silicon-organic slot metasurfaces

Posted by in categories: chemistry, computing, nanotechnology

Relying on sub-wavelength nanostructures, metasurfaces have been shown as promising candidates for replacing conventional free-space optical components by arbitrarily manipulating the amplitude, phase, and polarization of optical wavefronts in certain applications1,2,3. In recent years, the scope of their applications has been expanded towards complete spatio-temporal control through the introduction of active metasurfaces. These developments open up exciting new possibilities for dynamic holography4, faster spatial light modulators5, and fast optical beam steering for LiDAR6. Large efforts have been channeled into various modulation mechanisms7. Microelectromechanical and nanoelectromechanical systems (MEMS and NEMS)8,9,10,11 have the advantages of low-cost and CMOS-compatibility, but the speed is limited up to MHz. Phase-change materials12,13,14 have fast, drastic, and non-volatile refractive index change, but lack continuous refractive index tuning and have a limited number of cycles constraining applicability to reconfigurable devices. Through molecule reorientation, liquid crystal can have index modulation over 10%, while under relatively low applied voltages Tunable liquid crystal metasurfaces, U.S. patent number 10,665,953 [Application Number 16/505,687]15. Techniques of liquid crystal integration have also advanced after decades of development. However, the tuning speeds are limited to kHz range16. Thermal-optic effects can induce relatively large refractive index changes17,18, but the speed is inherently limited and the on-chip thermal management can be challenging. The co-integration of transparent conductive oxide and metallic plasmonic structures5,6 has been demonstrated in epsilon-near-zero (ENZ) regime to control the wavefront of reflected light, but the low reflection amplitude induced by the optical loss of the materials and the ENZ regime is unavoidable.

In modern photonics, a multitude of technologies for tunable optics and frequency conversion19,20 are realized with nonlinear materials that have low loss and a strong χ effect, such as lithium niobate21,22, aluminum nitride23, and organic electro-optic (OEO) materials24. Their ultrafast responses make it possible to use RF or millimeter-wave control25. Developments in computational chemistry have also led to artificially engineered organic molecules that have record-high nonlinear coefficients with long-term and high-temperature stability26,27. However, their potential in modifying free-space light has been relatively unexplored until recently. Several OEO material-hybrid designs have demonstrated improved tunability of metasurfaces28,29,30. Utilizing dielectric resonant structures and RF-compatible coplanar waveguides, a free-space silicon-organic modulator has recently accomplished GHz modulation speed31. However, all demonstrations to date require high operating voltages ± 60V, due to low resonance tuning capability (frequency shift / voltage), which hinders their integration with electronic chips.

In this work, we propose combining high-Q metasurfaces based on slot-mode resonances with the unique nano-fabrication techniques enabled by OEO materials, which drastically reduces the operating voltage. The low voltage is mainly achieved from the ability to place the electrodes in close proximity to each other while hosting high-Q modes in between and the large overlap of the optical and RF fields in OEO materials. In the following sections, we first provide the design concepts and considerations for achieving a reduced operating voltage. Next, we numerically demonstrate the advantage of a particular selected mode compared to other supported modes in the structure. Finally, we experimentally realize our concepts and characterize the performance of the electro-optic metasurface.

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