Photonic integration has proved remarkably successful in combining multiple optical devices onto a single chip with the benefits of added functionality, and reduction in costs, arising from the replacement of manual assembly and alignment of individual components with lithographic techniques. However, the incorporation of optical isolators and related non-reciprocal devices within standard optoelectronic wafer platforms is exceptionally challenging. Preferred magneto-optic materials cannot be exploited as waveguide core layers on semiconductor wafers due to a lower refractive index. Another difficulty is the phase velocity mismatch as a consequence of the inherent structural birefringence associated with waveguide geometries.
Our approach to the integration of an optical isolator with a III-V semiconductor laser involves combining a nonreciprocal mode converter with a reciprocal mode converter, based on an asymmetric profiled rib waveguide, fabricated by Reactive Ion Etching. We demonstrate that suitably tapered waveguides can be employed to connect the mode converter to other sections thereby avoiding problems caused by mode-matching and reflections from the section interfaces.
The nonreciprocal mode converter is formed from a continuation of the III-V semiconductor waveguide core with a magneto-optic upper cladding so that Faraday rotation occurs through the interaction of the evanescent tail. The phase velocity mismatch due to the waveguide birefringence is overcome using a quasi-phase-matching approach. Lithography is used to pattern the top cladding so that the film immediately on top of the waveguide core alternates between magnetooptic and a non-magneto-optic dielectric of a similar refractive index. Our first demonstrations used a dielectric (silica or silicon nitride) patterned by etching, or lift-off, on top of a GaAs rib waveguide, over which was deposited a magneto-optic film. This film was deposited by sputtering from a Ce:YIG target and demonstrated magnetic hysteresis, but, as it was not annealed, it was believed to consist of Ce:YIG and/or gamma iron oxide microcrystallites embedded in an amorphous matrix. With quasi-phase-matching periods of 110–160 μm and a waveguide length of 8 mm, we were able to demonstrate up to 12% non-reciprocal TE- to TM-mode conversion around a wavelength of 1.3 μm using the remanent magnetisation.
In order to enhance the magneto-optic effect it is desirable to anneal such films. However the mismatch in thermal expansion coefficients results in a catastrophic failure of samples with large area film coverage. This problem has been shown to be alleviated by patterning the YIG film. Unfortunately wet-etching of YIG also etches (Al)GaAs and, therefore, the development of a lift-off process for YIG deposition has been undertaken. Initial results are promising with ∼100 μm×2.5 μm YIG sections deposited on a GaAs layer which remain intact after an anneal in an oxygen atmosphere.