A carrier structure made from a single silicon substrate is the basis of a compact, lightweight, relatively inexpensive package that holds the main optical/electronic coupling components of a photonic millimeter-wave receiver based on a lithium niobate resonator disk. The design of the package is simple and provides for precise relative placement of optical components, eliminating the need for complex, bulky positioning mechanisms like those commonly used to align optical components to optimize focus and coupling. Although a prototype of the package was fabricated as a discrete unit, the design is amenable to integration of the package into a larger photonic and/or electronic receiver system.

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Optical Components of a millimeter-wave photonic receiver are kept in alignment by mounting them in precise recesses in a silicon substrate.

The components (see figure) include a lithium niobate optical resonator disk of 5-mm diameter and ≈200-μm thickness, positioned adjacent to a millimeter-wave resonator electrode. Other components include input and output coupling prisms and input and output optical fibers tipped with ball lenses for focusing and collimation, respectively. Laser light is introduced via the input optical fiber and focused into the input coupling prism. The input coupling prism is positioned near (but not in contact with) the resonator disk so that by means of evanescent-wave coupling, the input laser light in the prism gives rise to laser light propagating circumferentially in guided modes in the resonator disk. Similarly, a portion of the circumferentially propagating optical power is extracted from the disk by evanescent-wave coupling from the disk to the output coupling prism, from whence the light passes through the collimating ball lens into the output optical fiber.

The lens-tipped optical fibers must be positioned at a specified focal distance from the prisms. The optical fibers and the prisms must be correctly positioned relative to the resonator disk and must be oriented to obtain the angle of incidence (55° in the prototype) required for evanescent-wave coupling of light into and out of the desired guided modes in the resonator disk. To satisfy all these requirements, precise alignment features are formed in the silicon substrate by use of a conventional wet-etching process. These features include a 5-mm-diameter, 50-μm-deep cavity that holds the disk; two trapezoidal-cross-section recesses for the prisms; and two grooves that hold the optical fibers at the correct positions and angles relative to the prisms and disk. The fiber grooves contain abrupt tapers, near the prisms, that serve as hard stops for positioning the lenses at the focal distance from the prisms.

There are also two grooves for prism-adjusting rods. The design provides a little slack in the prism recesses for adjusting the positions of the prisms by means of these rods to optimize the optical coupling.

This work was done by Hung Nguyen, John Pouch, and Felix Miranda of Glenn Research Center, and Anthony F. Levi of the University of Southern California.

Inquiries concerning rights for the commercial use of this invention should be addressed to

NASA Glenn Research Center
Innovative Partnerships Office
Attn: Steve Fedor
Mail Stop 4–8
21000 Brookpark Road
Cleveland
Ohio 44135.

Refer to LEW-17694-1.