A high-speed silicon optical modulator based on a metal-oxide-semiconductor capacitor
Silicon has long been the optimal material for electronics, but it is only relatively recently that it has been considered as a material option for photonics1. One of the key limitations for using silicon as a photonic material has been the relatively low speed of silicon optical modulators compared to those fabricated from III–V semiconductor compounds2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and/or electro-optic materials such as lithium niobate7, 8, 9. To date, the fastest silicon-waveguide-based optical modulator that has been demonstrated experimentally has a modulation frequency of only 20 MHz (refs 10, 11), although it has been predicted theoretically that a 1-GHz modulation frequency might be achievable in some device structures12, 13. Here we describe an approach based on a metal–oxide–semiconductor (MOS) capacitor structure embedded in a silicon waveguide that can produce high-speed optical phase modulation: we demonstrate an all-silicon optical modulator with a modulation bandwidth exceeding 1 GHz. As this technology is compatible with conventional complementary MOS (CMOS) processing, monolithic integration of the silicon modulator with advanced electronics on a single silicon substrate becomes possible.