Paul van Gerven
14 October 2022

Scientists at the University of Twente have developed a new technique to manipulate light using sound. In a photonic device, they had two finely tuned lasers generate a soundwave with frequencies 1 million times higher than the human hearing threshold and trap it in a waveguide. Light sent through the waveguide interacts with the soundwave which will reflect a very small and specific part of the light spectrum, effectively filtering the signal.

“Even though Brillouin scattering has been studied extensively in the last few years, it could never be implemented reliably on a chip suitable for use in our daily lives”, tells David Marpaung, Nonlinear Nanophotonics group leader. “Trapping the soundwave in a waveguide long enough to be effective, has proven to be very difficult. ‘Acoustic leakage’ is a big problem in traditional silicon-based platforms preventing strong Brillouin interactions.”

SiN soundwaves
Credit: University of Twente

Marpaung’s research team used low-loss multilayer silicon nitride (Si3N4) nanophotonic circuits to confine both the optical and the acoustic waves. These circuits consist of 50 centimeter-long spiral waveguides. This setup traps the soundwave and prevents the acoustic leakage that occurs when using a single silicon nitride core.

“Our research makes integration of stimulated Brillouin scattering in large circuits possible. These new chips can be integrated with other emerging technologies such as tunable lasers, frequency combs, and programmable photonic circuits, potentially giving them a part in the future development of fields ranging from telecommunications to quantum computing,” Marpaung adds.