, Volume 29, Issue 12, pp 1380-1386

Optical transmission losses in polycrystalline silicon strip waveguides: Effects of waveguide dimensions, thermal treatment, hydrogen passivation, and wavelength

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Signal propagation delays dominate over gate delays in the ever-shrinking ultra large scale integrated (ULSI) circuits. Consequently, silicon-based monolithic optoelectronic circuits (SMOE) with their light speed signal propagation can provide unique advantages for future generations of microprocessors. For such SMOE circuits, we need optical interconnects compatible with silicon technology. Strip waveguides consisting of polycrystalline silicon (polySi) clad with SiO2 offer excellent optical confinement and ease of fabrication that are ideal for such interconnect applications. One major challenge with using this material system, however, is its insertion loss. In this paper we provide techniques for minimizing optical transmission losses in polySi strip waveguides. Our previous work using polySi strip waveguides, showed an optical transmission loss of 15 dB/cm at λ=1.55 µm, which is a communication wavelength of choice in optical fibers because it represents an absorption minimum. Similar measurements in crystalline silicon strip waveguides1 yielded transmission losses of less than 1 dB/cm. Hitherto, in decreasing loss from 77 dB/cm to 15 dB/cm, we had minimized loss from surface scattering by improving the film surface morphology, and decreased bulk absorption with hydrogen passivation. In this paper we report a further reduction in the residual bulk loss from 15 dB/cm to 9 dB/cm. By experimenting with different waveguide core dimensions, we find that the contribution of bulk loss towards net transmission loss decreases with waveguide core thickness. Additionally, high temperature treatment provides strain relief in the polySi, decreasing transmission loss. Annealing in an oxygen ambient is not recommended because it always increases transmission loss. Hydrogen passivation improves transmission, attributable to passivation of light-absorbing dangling bond defect sites present at polySi grain boundaries. Together, these methods have resulted in the lowest measured loss value of 9 dB/cm at λ=1.55 µm. Since integrated SiGe and Ge photodetectors are more efficient at shorter wavelengths like λ=1.32 µm, transmission loss is also measured at λ=1.32 µm. Losses at the two wavelengths (1.32 µm and 1.55 µm) are similar when defects and stress in the waveguides are minimized.