Light-Sound Interaction in Nanoscale Silicon Waveguides

Research paper by Raphaël Van Laer

Indexed on: 31 May '16Published on: 31 May '16Published in: Physics - Optics


This thesis studies the interaction between near-infrared light and gigahertz sound in nanoscale silicon waveguides. Chapter 2 introduces photon-phonon coupling and its theoretical description, describing basic mechanisms and developing a quantum field theory of the process. Chapter 3 explores the dynamical effects in both waveguides and cavities. It also proves a connection between the Brillouin gain coefficient and the vacuum coupling rate. Chapter 4 deals with the observation of Brillouin scattering in nanoscale silicon waveguides. The waveguides tightly confine $193 \, \text{THz}$ light and $10 \, \text{GHz}$ acoustic vibrations. The acoustic quality factor remains limited to about $300$ because of leakage into silica substrate. These waveguides are optically transparent in a narrow band of frequencies at a pump power of $25 \, \text{mW}$. Besides this amplification, we translate a $10 \, \text{GHz}$ microwave signal across $1 \, \text{THz}$. Chapter 5 extends the experimental work of chapter 4 by fabricating a cascade of fully suspended nanowires held by silica anchors. This enhances the mechanical quality factor from $300$ to $1000$, enabling the observation of Brillouin amplification exceeding the propagation losses in silicon. The amount of amplification is mostly limited by a rapid drop in acoustic quality as the number of suspensions increases. We propose a mechanism to cancel this inhomogeneous broadening. Chapter 6 looks at the potential of narrow silicon slot waveguides to enhance the optomechanical coupling. For certain dimensions, these waveguides support opto-acoustic modes with an interaction efficiency simulated an order of magnitude above those of single-nanobeam systems.