In order to obtain a low polarization dependent loss (PDL) and a large attenuation range simultaneously, an optimal design and fabrication of a polymer-dispersed liquid crystal (PDLC) based variable optical attenuator (VOA) is presented. First, an optimal diameter of the liquid crystal droplets is determined by the anomalous diffraction approach (ADA). This optimal diameter gives maximal scattering and thus a large attenuation range is achieved with a relatively thin liquid crystal cell. Secondly, the fabrication of PDLC cell is carried out. The influence of the ultraviolet (UV) curing condition on the morphology of the LC droplets is investigated. For a given liquid crystal concentration, the optimal UV curing power is obtained after a series of statistically designed experiments. Finally, an optical configuration of the PDLC based VOA is presented. Measurements of the attenuation and the PDL are carried out with this configuration. The measured results show that the device has a typical attenuation range of 25dB. The corresponding PDL is nearly 1dB and the insertion loss is 1.8dB. The threshold voltage is 8Vrms and the saturation voltage is 40Vrms. From these measured results, one can see that the fabricated VOA based on PDLC is much more practical for optical communications as compared to the existing ones.
A review is presented on some progress we have made recently in planar integrated photonics including arrayed-waveguide gratings (AWGs) and etched diffraction gratings (EDGs), multimode interference (MMI) couplers/splitters, and spot-size converters. Some novel structures and design methods are summarized and presented.