Optical switching devices that can perform at picosecond to femtosecond speeds are on demand because of interest to develop multi-gigabit, multi-user, optical networks. Two fundamental design issues are the choice of nonlinear material as the active medium for the switch and the switching architecture. Wave guide based switches designed with silica fiber have demonstrated ultra-fast switching up to femtosecond speeds. Figure 1 shows the switching speed versus power-length product for different types of materials. At the two extremes are rare-earth doped, and silica. Rare-earth doped materials have the smallest power-length product of about 10 W-cm, but also have the least switching speed. At the other extreme, silica has the fastest switching speed of 1013 Hz but also has the largest power-length product of 6 kW-cm. Semiconductor-doped glasses (SDG) and metal-doped glasses appear to have a good compromise between switching speed and power-length product. There is therefore interest to research such optical materials, and novel switching architectures that can simultaneously down-scale device geometry, and power requirements for switching.
Eric Donkor, Eric Donkor,
"All-optical switching in semiconductor-doped nonlinear fibers", Proc. SPIE 3847, Optical Devices for Fiber Communication, (26 November 1999); doi: 10.1117/12.371240; https://doi.org/10.1117/12.371240