Over the past decade, a massive effort has been made in the development of planar lightwave circuits (PLCs) for application in optical telecommunications. Major advances have been made, on both the technological and functional performance front. Highly sophisticated software tools that are used to tailor designs to required functional performance support these developments. In addition extensive know-how in the field of packaging, testing, and failure mode and effects analysis (FMEA) has been built up in the struggle for meeting the stringent Telcordia requirements that apply to telecom products. As an example, silica-on-silicon is now a mature technology available at several industrial foundries around the world, where, on the performance front, the arrayed-waveguide grating (AWG) has evolved into an off-the-shelf product.
The field of optical chemical-biological (CB) sensors for homeland security application can greatly benefit from the advances as described above. In this paper we discuss the currently available technologies, device concepts, and modeling tools that have emerged from the telecommunications arena and that can effectively be applied to the field of homeland security. Using this profound telecom knowledge base, standard telecom components can readily be tailored for detecting CB agents. Designs for telecom components aim at complete isolation from the environment to exclude impact of environmental parameters on optical performance. For sensing applications, the optical path must be exposed to the measurand, in this area additional development is required beyond what has already been achieved in telecom development. We have tackled this problem, and are now in a position to apply standard telecom components for CB sensing. As an example, the application of an AWG as a refractometer is demonstrated, and its performance evaluated.