Theme Issue on Photonics with Thin Film Lithium Niobate
To spotlight advances in thin film lithium niobate technology, we present a special collection.
Lithium niobate on insulator (LNOI) technology, for electro-optical modulation and acoustic wave filtering in next-generation optical and wireless communications, is driving optoelectronic device performance to new heights. Hybrid integration allows LNOI to be an enabling technology for optical computation, microwave photonics, and quantum information, with large-scale photonic integration, high optical reconfigurability, and strong nonlinear interaction at the single photon level. Key areas of future research identified: large-size low-defect thin film lithium niobate wafer and high-performance device fabrication.
The article is an interview with Prof. Marko Lončar of the John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) at Harvard University, conducted by Guoqing Chang of the Chinese Academy of Sciences Institute of Physics, on behalf of Advanced Photonics.
Photonics on thin-film lithium niobate (TFLN) has emerged as one of the most pursued disciplines within integrated optics. Ultracompact and low-loss optical waveguides and related devices on this modern material platform have rejuvenated the traditional and commercial applications of lithium niobate for optical modulators based on the electro-optic effect, as well as optical wavelength converters based on second-order nonlinear effects, e.g., second-harmonic, sum-, and difference-frequency generations. TFLN has also created vast opportunities for applications and integrated solutions for optical parametric amplification and oscillation, cascaded nonlinear effects, such as low-harmonic generation; third-order nonlinear effects, such as supercontinuum generation; optical frequency comb generation and stabilization; and nonclassical nonlinear effects, such as spontaneous parametric downconversion for quantum optics. Recent progress in nonlinear integrated photonics on TFLN for all these applications, their current trends, and future opportunities and challenges are reviewed.
Lithium niobate (LN) has experienced significant developments during past decades due to its versatile properties, especially its large electro-optic (EO) coefficient. For example, bulk LN-based modulators with high speeds and a superior linearity are widely used in typical fiber-optic communication systems. However, with ever-increasing demands for signal transmission capacity, the high power and large size of bulk LN-based devices pose great challenges, especially when one of its counterparts, integrated silicon photonics, has experienced dramatic developments in recent decades. Not long ago, high-quality thin-film LN on insulator (LNOI) became commercially available, which has paved the way for integrated LN photonics and opened a hot research area of LN photonics devices. LNOI allows a large refractive index contrast, thus light can be confined within a more compact structure. Together with other properties of LN, such as nonlinear/acousto-optic/pyroelectric effects, various kinds of high-performance integrated LN devices can be demonstrated. A comprehensive summary of advances in LN photonics is provided. As LN photonics has experienced several decades of development, our review includes some of the typical bulk LN devices as well as recently developed thin film LN devices. In this way, readers may be inspired by a complete picture of the evolution of this technology. We first introduce the basic material properties of LN and several key processing technologies for fabricating photonics devices. After that, various kinds of functional devices based on different effects are summarized. Finally, we give a short summary and perspective of LN photonics. We hope this review can give readers more insight into recent advances in LN photonics and contribute to the further development of LN related research.
Single-frequency ultranarrow linewidth on-chip microlasers with a fast wavelength tunability play a game-changing role in a broad spectrum of applications ranging from coherent communication, light detection and ranging, to metrology and sensing. Design and fabrication of such light sources remain a challenge due to the difficulties in making a laser cavity that has an ultrahigh optical quality (Q) factor and supports only a single lasing frequency simultaneously. Here, we demonstrate a unique single-frequency ultranarrow linewidth lasing mechanism on an erbium ion-doped lithium niobate (LN) microdisk through simultaneous excitation of high-Q polygon modes at both pump and laser wavelengths. As the polygon modes are sparse within the optical gain bandwidth compared with the whispering gallery mode counterpart, while their Q factors (above 10 million) are even higher due to the significantly reduced scattering on their propagation paths, single-frequency lasing with a linewidth as narrow as 322 Hz is observed. The measured linewidth is three orders of magnitude narrower than the previous record in on-chip LN microlasers. Finally, enabled by the strong linear electro-optic effect of LN, real-time electro-optical tuning of the microlaser with a high tuning efficiency of ∼50 pm / 100 V is demonstrated.
Thin-film lithium niobate is a promising material platform for integrated nonlinear photonics, due to its high refractive index contrast with the excellent optical properties. However, the high refractive index contrast and correspondingly small mode field diameter limit the attainable coupling between the waveguide and fiber. In second harmonic generation processes, lack of efficient fiber-chip coupling schemes covering both the fundamental and second harmonic wavelengths has greatly limited the overall efficiency. We design and fabricate an ultra-broadband tri-layer edge coupler with a high coupling efficiency. The coupler allows efficient coupling of 1 dB / facet at 1550 nm and 3 dB / facet at 775 nm. This enables us to achieve an ultrahigh overall second harmonic generation normalized efficiency (fiber-to-fiber) of 1027 % W - 1 cm - 2 (on-chip second harmonic efficiency ∼3256 % W - 1 cm - 2) in a 5-mm-long periodically-poled lithium niobate waveguide, which is two to three orders of magnitude higher than that in state-of-the-art devices.