Chemists and electrical engineers of Eindhoven University of Technology have developed a polymer-based approach to (re)programming photonic integrated devices (PICs) using acidity. The new technique circumvents the need for complex control circuits and increased power consumption associated with existing methods.
Reprogramming PICs involves manipulating the path of the data-carrying light signals. This is traditionally done by using materials with a refractive index that can be changed using heat or light. The polymer developed in Eindhoven, by contrast, changes its properties in response to exposure to solutions. Depending on the acidity of the solution, the material swells or de-swells, changing its refractive index accordingly.
Using the approach, devices can be reprogrammed in a matter of minutes. Once completed, the programmed state is non-volatile and stable for up to 15 weeks.