This work proposes to establish the feasibility of fabricating isolated ridge waveguides in 5% MgO:LN. Ridge waveguides in MgO:LN will significantly improve power handling and conversion efficiency, increase photonic component integration, and be well suited to space-based applications. The key innovation in this effort is to combine recently available large, high-photorefractive-damage-threshold, z-cut 5% MgO:LN with novel ridge fabrication techniques to achieve high-optical power, low-cost, high-volume manufacturing of frequency conversion structures. The proposed ridge waveguide structure should maintain the characteristics of the periodically poled bulk substrate, allowing for the efficient frequency conversion typical of waveguides and the high optical damage threshold and long lifetimes typical of the 5% doped bulk substrate. The low cost and large area of 5% MgO:LN wafers, and the improved performance of the proposed ridge waveguide structure, will enhance existing measurement capabilities as well as reduce the resources required to achieve high-performance specifications.

The purpose of the ridge waveguides in MgO:LN is to provide platform technology that will improve optical power handling and conversion efficiency compared to existing waveguide technology. The proposed ridge waveguide is produced using standard microfabrication techniques. The approach is enabled by recent advances in inductively coupled plasma etchers and chemical mechanical planarization techniques. In conjunction with wafer bonding, this fabrication methodology can be used to create arbitrarily shaped waveguides allowing complex optical circuits to be engineered in nonlinear optical materials such as magnesium doped lithium niobate. Researchers here have identified NLO (nonlinear optical) ridge waveguide structures as having suitable value to be the leading frequency conversion structures. Its value is based on having the low-cost fabrication necessary to satisfy the challenging pricing requirements as well as achieve the power handling and other specifications in a suitably compact package.

This work was done by Phillip Himmer of Montana State University and Philip Battle, William Suckow, and Greg Switzer of AdvR Inc. for Goddard Space Flight Center. GSC-16031-1

NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the June, 2011 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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