Planar optics have become the leading technology for DWDM applications, due to its high performance and low
manufacturing costs enabled by wafer scale processing. A powerful new design tool has been successfully applied to
Planar Lightwave Circuit (PLC) design and fabrication, enabling rapid design information turns, mask and process error
correction, and higher final device yields. We also present a new wideband AWG design that permits a low-ripple
passband shape over a larger range of the DWDM spectrum. Combined with state-of-the-art semiconductor fabrication
techniques, these new designs and methodologies have enabled a new generation of high-performance, high-yield PLC-based
Reconfigurable Optical Add-Drop Modules (ROADM's). Optical data from a representative sample of almost 200
ROADM modules is presented, showing a tight statistical distribution of wide passband, low ripple, low insertion loss,
and low polarization dependent loss devices.
Planar technology and design have evolved significantly in the past decade, both in terms of performance and yield, reducing the cost/performance advantage of thin-film filters (TFF) over Array-Waveguide Grating (AWG) devices. This evolution is primarily due to two reasons. One of the reasons for this is the adoption of the latest in semi-conductor fabrication techniques with respect to wafer scale, process equipment automation, and yield engineering. The other reason is the many advancements made in the Planar Light Circuit (PLC) design front which have resulted in lower optical insertion loss, reduced crosstalk, increased channel bandwidth, decreased channel spacing, and minimal chromatic dispersion. We demonstrate here how such state-of-the-art fabrication technology in combination with advanced PLC designs can be effectively used to engineer the filter shape (ripple, bandwidth, and flatness) and chromatic dispersion of AWG's to match or exceed that of their thin-film counterparts. Low passband ripple is critical for cascading multiple nodes in ring network architecture whereas minimal chromatic dispersion (CD) is desired in high rate data systems to avoid signal
distortion. The AWG device presented here has a 1dB bandwidth that exceeds 80% of the channel spacing awhile exhibiting a high flatness (25dB/1dB ratio < 1.7), both of which are at least a 50% improvement over generic flat-top AWG designs available in the market and are equivalent in performance to TFF devices. At 100 GHz spacing, AWG's
have intrinsic low-dispersion, but narrowing the spacing to 50GHz leads to a four fold increase in the CD. Here, we have successfully overcome this limitation and have been able to design and fabricate a 50GHz wide-band AWG with less than 1ps/nm chromatic dispersion, which exceeds TFF performance.
The future of telecom system design relies heavily on combining many optical devices into multifunctional modules with superior performance, lower cost, and smaller overall package size. The AWG module developments discussed here will afford comprehensive benefits to advanced optical networks. Current AWG development efforts focus on lowering insertion loss, reducing crosstalk, increasing channel bandwidth, decreasing channel spacing, managing dispersion, decreasing package size, and incorporating intelligent electronics. Better matching of the waveguide geometry and index of the integrated circuit to the optical fiber reduces the coupling loss. Other design optimizations to the waveguide bend radius and waveguide pitch at the slab can decrease circuit loss. High quality processing reduces the inhomogenieties that cause phase errors in AWGs and thus increase channel crosstalk. Optical design modifications in AWG waveguide tapers at the slab can change the passband shape and increase the channel bandwidth. Dispersion can be managed by better controlling the dispersion slope allowing for compensation. Innovations for temperature control circuitry and novel packaging designs and materials allow for smaller modules and reduced power consumption.