Mid-infrared (mid-IR) silicon photonics is becoming a prominent research with remarkable potential in several applications such as in early medical diagnosis, safe communications, imaging, food safety and many more. In the quest for the best material platform to develop new photonic systems, Si and Ge depart with a notable advantage over other materials due to the high processing maturity accomplished during the last part of the 20th century through the deployment of the CMOS technology. From an optical viewpoint, combining Si with Ge to obtain SiGe alloys with controlled stoichiometry is also of interest for the photonic community since permits to increase the effective refractive index and the nonlinear parameter, providing a fascinating playground to exploit nonlinear effects. Furthermore, using Ge-rich SiGe gives access to a range of deep mid-IR wavelengths otherwise inaccessible (λ ~2-20 μm). In this paper, we explore for the first time the limits of this approach by measuring the spectral loss characteristic over a broadband wavelength range spanning from λ = 5.5 μm to 8.5 μm. Three different SiGe waveguide platforms are compared, each one showing higher compactness than the preceding through the engineering of the vertical Ge profile, giving rise to different confinement characteristics to the propagating modes. A flat propagation loss characteristic of 2-3 dB/cm over the entire wavelength span is demonstrated in Ge-rich graded-index SiGe waveguides of only 6 μm thick. Also, the role of the overlap fraction of the confined optical mode with the Si-rich area at the bottom side of the epitaxial SiGe waveguide is put in perspective, revealing a lossy characteristic compared to the other designs were the optical mode is located in the Ge-rich area at the top of the waveguide uniquely. These Ge-rich graded-index SiGe waveguides may pave the way towards a new generation of photonic integrated circuits operating at deep mid-IR wavelengths.
J. M. Ramirez, V. Vakarin, Q. Liu, J. Frigerio, A. Ballabio, X. Le Roux, D. Benedikovic, C. Alonso-Ramos, G. Isella, L. Vivien, and D. Marris-Morini, "Ge-rich graded-index Si1-xGex devices for Mid-IR integrated photonics," Proc. SPIE 10537, Silicon Photonics XIII, 105370R (Presented at SPIE OPTO: January 31, 2018; Published: 22 February 2018); https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2290282.
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