Photonic devices

In addition to the deposition and functional characterization of electro-optical materials, we have developed and realized concepts of bringing such layers into Si- photonic structures. The strong Pockels coefficient of barium titanate thin films can ultimately result in a new generation of compact, integrated devices with superior switching and optical memory properties.

Our research is focused on what are known as slot waveguide structures to achieve enhanced optical confinement in the BaTiO3 layer and to reduce the optical bending losses (Fig. 1). Based on this waveguide geometry, our work focuses on manufacturing passive and active devices such as grating couplers, Mach–Zehnder interferometers, and ring resonators [1].

hybrid BaTiO3/Si slot waveguide

Figure 1. (Left) Schematics of a hybrid BaTiO3/Si slot waveguide structure with tungsten electrodes on the side of the waveguide. (Center) Transmission electron microscopy image of the waveguide core. (Right) Scanning electron microscopy image of several ring resonator structures. (from [1]).

A major challenge for this type of waveguide structures are the typically large propagation losses of more than 50 dB/cm (Fig. 2, left). We identified the thin strontium titanate interfacial layer commonly used to enable the epitaxial growth of BaTiO3 on silicon as a major source of absorption. By adjusting the waveguide fabrication process we developed low-loss BaTiO3/Si waveguides required for large scale integration [2].

Active switches are obtained by applying an electrical field to the active BaTiO3 layer in the waveguide region. Indeed, the waveguide mode index changes as a function of the applied voltage, as for example visible in the shifts of the resonance wavelength in BaTiO3/Si ring resonator structures (Fig. 2, right). While it has been demonstrated that such type of devices can be used for high-speed modulation [3] and ultralow-power optical tuning [1], a clear identification of the Pockels effect as the main physical origin for the electro-optical switching remains to be shown.

Comparison of previously reported propagation losses in BaTiO3-based waveguides on MgO and Si substrates

Comparison of previously reported propagation losses in BaTiO3-based waveguides on MgO and Si substrates

Figure 2. (Left) Comparison of previously reported propagation losses in BaTiO3-based waveguides on MgO and Si substrates. With our fabrication process we are able to achieve BaTiO3 waveguides in silicon photonic structures with low propagation losses [2]. (Right) Transmission spectra of an active racetrack resonator. Applying a voltage results in a spectral shift of the resonances, with a tunability of 18 pm/V [1].

In addition to materials with strong Pockels coefficients, we also explore the integration of other novel oxides to photonic circuits, such as vanadium dioxide, which shows an electrically inducible metal-to-insulator transition. The large optical contrast between the two phases might enable ultra-compact optical switches [4].

Plasmonic switches

Besides photonic devices, we are also working on integration of BaTiO3 in high-speed plasmonic switches. Very compact high-speed plasmonic modulators, with low power consumption have already been demonstrated [5]. However, these devices are severely limited by the stability of the active material (nonlinear polymer). We seek to improve on these devices, by utilizing the large Pockels effect, and stability and durability of BaTiO3 thin films.


[1] S. Abel et al.,A Hybrid Barium Titanate–Silicon Photonics Platform for Ultraefficient Electro-Optic Tuning,” J. Light. Technol. 34, 1688–1693 (2016).

[2] F. Eltes et al.,Low-Loss BaTiO3–Si Waveguides for Nonlinear Integrated Photonics,” ACS Photonics 3, 1698 (2016).

[3] C. Xiong et al., “Active silicon integrated nanophotonics: ferroelectric BaTiO3 devices,” Nano Lett. 14, 1419–1425 (2014).

[4] P. Markov et al.,Optically Monitored Electrical Switching in VO2,” ACS Photonics 2, 1175–1182 (2015).

[5] C. Haffner et al., “All-plasmonic Mach–Zehnder modulator enabling optical high-speed communication at the microscale,” Nat. Photonics 9, 525 (2015).



Ask the experts

Stefan Abel

Stefan Abel

IBM Research scientist

Jean Fompeyrine

Jean Fompeyrine

IBM Research scientist

Group members

Felix Eltes, PhD student

Projects & collaboration

Sitoga logo

EU FP7 project Sitoga

Silicon CMOS compatible transition metal oxide technology for boosting highly integrated photonic devices with disruptive performance


Swiss project PADOMO

Plasmonic Active Devices based on Metal Oxides

NeuRAM3 logo


PHotonic REServoir COmputing