This paper presents a high-contrast electro-optical modulator with record-breaking amplitude modulation index of 27 dB and forward loss of < 3 dB at 1.5 μm. The high contrast is achieved by utilizing slit and surface plasmon polariton resonances in an array of gold lines filled with a phase change material (Germanium Telluride-GeTe). Stacking multiple layers of the phase change plasmonic grating enabled development of the high-index modulator in chip scale dimensions at telecommunication wavelength. Coupling the optical modes of multiple layers results in such a high contrast when GeTe goes through crystallographic phase transition. Phase transition through joule-heating is achieved by employing a matching circuit.
In this paper, we present an ultra-fast and high-contrast optical shutter with applications in atomic clock assemblies, integrated photonic systems, communication hardware, etc. The shutter design exploits the total light absorption phenomenon in a thin phase change (PC) material placed over a metal layer. The shutter switches between ON and OFF states by changing PC material phase and thus its refractive index. The PC material used in this work is Germanium Telluride (GeTe), a group IV-VI chalcogenide compound, which exhibits good optical contrast when switching from amorphous to crystalline state and vice versa. The stable phase changing behavior and reliability of GeTe and GeSbTe (GST) have been verified in optical memories and RF switches. Here, GeTe is used as it has a lower extinction coefficient in near-IR regions compared to GST. GeTe can be thermally transitioned between two phases by applying electrical pulses to an integrated heater. The memory behavior of GeTe results in zero static power consumption which is useful in applications requiring long time periods between switching activities. We previously demonstrated a meta-surface employing GeTe in sub-wavelength slits with >14 dB isolation at 1.5 μm by exciting the surface plasmon polariton and localized slit resonances. In this work, strong interference effects in a thin layer of GeTe over a gold mirror result in near total light absorption of up to 40 dB (21 dB measured) in the amorphous phase of the shutter at 780 nm with much less fabrication complexity. The optical loss at the shutter ON state is less than 1.5 dB. A nickel chrome (NiCr) heater provides the Joule heating energy required to achieve the crystallographic phase change. The measured switching speed is 2 μs.