In this paper, we present an ultra-fast and high-contrast optical shutter with applications in atomic clock assemblies, integrated photonic systems, communication hardware, etc. The shutter design exploits the total light absorption phenomenon in a thin phase change (PC) material placed over a metal layer. The shutter switches between ON and OFF states by changing PC material phase and thus its refractive index. The PC material used in this work is Germanium Telluride (GeTe), a group IV-VI chalcogenide compound, which exhibits good optical contrast when switching from amorphous to crystalline state and vice versa. The stable phase changing behavior and reliability of GeTe and GeSbTe (GST) have been verified in optical memories and RF switches. Here, GeTe is used as it has a lower extinction coefficient in near-IR regions compared to GST. GeTe can be thermally transitioned between two phases by applying electrical pulses to an integrated heater. The memory behavior of GeTe results in zero static power consumption which is useful in applications requiring long time periods between switching activities. We previously demonstrated a meta-surface employing GeTe in sub-wavelength slits with >14 dB isolation at 1.5 μm by exciting the surface plasmon polariton and localized slit resonances. In this work, strong interference effects in a thin layer of GeTe over a gold mirror result in near total light absorption of up to 40 dB (21 dB measured) in the amorphous phase of the shutter at 780 nm with much less fabrication complexity. The optical loss at the shutter ON state is less than 1.5 dB. A nickel chrome (NiCr) heater provides the Joule heating energy required to achieve the crystallographic phase change. The measured switching speed is 2 μs.
Mohsen Jafari, L. Jay Guo, and Mina Rais-Zadeh, "An ultra-fast optical shutter exploiting total light absorption in a phase change material," Proc. SPIE 10100, Optical Components and Materials XIV, 101000I (Presented at SPIE OPTO: January 31, 2017; Published: 16 February 2017); https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2257401.
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