Design of a carrier-depletion Mach-Zehnder modulator in 250 nm silicon-on-insulator technology
Abstract. We present the design of a single-drive Mach-Zehnder modulator for amplitude modulation in silicon-on-insulator technology with 250 nm active layer thickness. The applied RF signal modulates the carrier density in a reverse biased lateral pn-junction. The free carrier plasma dispersion effect in silicon leads to a change in the refractive index. The modulation efficiency and the optical loss due to free carriers are analyzed for different doping configurations. The intrinsic electrical parameters of the pn-junction of the phase shifter like resistance and capacitance and the corresponding RC-limit are studied. A first prototype in this technology fabricated at the IMS CHIPS Stuttgart is successfully measured. The structure has a modulation efficiency of VπL = 3.1 V ⋅ cm at 2 V reverse bias. The on-chip insertion loss is 4.2 dB. The structure exhibits an extinction ratio of around 32 dB. The length of the phase shifter is 0.5 mm. The cutoff frequency of the entire modulator is 30 GHz at 2 V. Finally, an optimization of the doping structure is presented to reduce the optical loss and to improve the modulation efficiency. The optimized silicon optical modulator shows a theoretical modulation efficiency of VπL = 1.8 V ⋅ cm at 6 V bias and a maximum optical loss due to the free carrier absorption of around 3.1 dB cm−1. An ultra-low fiber-to-fiber loss of approximately 4.8 dB is expected using the state of the art optical components in the used technology.