Planar waveguides and embedded microelements such as 45o vertical mirrors, lateral mirrors, bends, and microlenses comprise main building blocks of the waveguide-based optical printed circuit boards (PCB) for board-level optical interconnects (OI). These microelements enable a variety of three dimensional (3D) routing architectures which are required to support high density interconnects in optical boards. Optical polymers have proved to be the materials of choice for large-scale OI modules with propagation dimensions exceeding 100 mm. In order to meet the loss budget available for the integrated OI modules, the polymers are expected to have optical losses less than 0.05 dB/cm. Both channel and slab waveguides can be used to transmit the signals between the input and output ports. In the case of channel waveguides, the critical issues are the waveguide core shaping, propagation losses and ability to form various passive elements such as bends, crossings and reflective mirrors. In the case of slab waveguides, two dimensional waveguide microlenses have to be designed to collimate the light beams for propagation at longer distances with the controllable beam divergences. The 45o micromirrors can be used to couple the light signal in and out of the waveguiding layer and enable 3D routing of the optical signal in the waveguiding layers. In this work, we present the experimental and computational results on the development of different waveguide devices and microelements for the board level OI.
Different types of planar waveguide microlenses are fabricated with PLC technologies from a variety of optical materials such as silica, photo-definable epoxy resins, and a number of other optical polymers. Hybrid microlenses are also fabricated in which the base of the lens, with a double concave gap, is formed from silica and the gap is filled with an optical polymer. The optimized lens structures provide the maximum coupling efficiencies between the input and output channels at distances up to 100 mm with a minimum channel pitch of 0.5-0.7 mm. Experimental and theoretical studies provide results on collimation and focusing properties of single and double microlenses made of silica, polymer, and silica/polymer. The evaluation of the temperature and wavelength effects on the collimation characteristics of the lenses demonstrate that the single lenses are more stable and, thus, more suitable for operations under varying conditions. Examples of the planar waveguide microlens applications are presented. In one application the microlens arrays are integrated in fast electrooptic photonic switching modules. In the other application the microlenses are embedded in the backplanes with nonblocking optical interconnects.
Two-dimensional (2-D) microlens arrays have been fabricated with silica-on-silicon planar lightwave circuit (PLC) technology. Several experimental techniques and computer simulation methods are applied to characterize properties of single and double microlens arrays, with one and two refracting surfaces, respectively. Systematic comparison of the measured and simulated beam propagation profiles enables optimization of the lens and module design resulting in higher input-output coupling efficiency. The insertion losses of the lens-slab-lens optical modules with 90-mm-long slab waveguides are measured to be 2.1 and 3.5 dB for the double and single lens modules, respectively. Comprehensive analysis reveals the major loss contributions. Excess losses of the modules caused by variations of the lens curvatures, material refractive indexes, light wavelength, etc., can be controlled within the acceptable limits. Further possibilities for the module loss reduction are discussed. Fairly weak wavelength dependence as well as overall stability of the module properties indicate that the microlens arrays are suitable for dense wavelength division multiplexing (DWDM) photonic networks.