Nano–opto-electro-mechanical switches operated at CMOS-level voltages

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Science  15 Nov 2019:
Vol. 366, Issue 6467, pp. 860-864
DOI: 10.1126/science.aay8645

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Switching light on-chip

The development of practical, reconfigurable photonics requires a platform that can be scaled to large circuits and driven by low-voltage complementary metal-oxide semiconductor (CMOS) electronics. Such a platform requires that switching devices possess a compact footprint, low driving voltages, fast switching, low optical losses, and low power consumption. Haffner et al. demonstrate that the combination of opto-electro-mechanical effects with plasmonic devices can provide a platform that meets all the above criteria. The results are promising for developing on-chip integrated optical networks that can be switched by CMOS-level voltages.

Science, this issue p. 860


Combining reprogrammable optical networks with complementary metal-oxide semiconductor (CMOS) electronics is expected to provide a platform for technological developments in on-chip integrated optoelectronics. We demonstrate how opto-electro-mechanical effects in micrometer-scale hybrid photonic-plasmonic structures enable light switching under CMOS voltages and low optical losses (0.1 decibel). Rapid (for example, tens of nanoseconds) switching is achieved by an electrostatic, nanometer-scale perturbation of a thin, and thus low-mass, gold membrane that forms an air-gap hybrid photonic-plasmonic waveguide. Confinement of the plasmonic portion of the light to the variable-height air gap yields a strong opto-electro-mechanical effect, while photonic confinement of the rest of the light minimizes optical losses. The demonstrated hybrid architecture provides a route to develop applications for CMOS-integrated, reprogrammable optical systems such as optical neural networks for deep learning.

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