Metastable refractive index manipulation in hydrogenated amorphous silicon for reconfigurable photonics

Mahir Asif Mohammed, Jimmy Melskens, Ripalta Stabile, Francesco Pagliano, Chenhui Li, Wilhelmus M.M. Kessels, Oded Raz (Corresponding author)

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Hydrogenated amorphous silicon (a‐Si:H) is known for exhibiting light‐induced metastable properties that are reversible upon annealing. While these are commonly associated with the well‐known deleterious Staebler–Wronski effect in the field of thin‐film silicon solar cells, the associated changes in optical properties have not been well studied. Emerging reconfigurable photonic devices and applications can benefit from metastable optical properties where two states of the material are reversibly accessible without the need for continuous stimulation. The study demonstrates a light‐induced 0.3% increase of the metastable refractive index of a‐Si:H that is reversed upon annealing over several cycles using a highly sensitive Fabry–Pérot interferometric technique. Utilizing this technique, a metastable optical switch based on a micro‐ring resonator is demonstrated with reversible distinct switching states separated by 0.3 nm between the light‐soaked and annealed states, a switching extinction exceeding 20 dB and an unchanged Q‐factor, suggesting no excess discernible optical loss. Furthermore, metastable strain changes in a‐Si:H‐based freestanding membrane structures are linked to the observed metastable optical properties and present a possible route to stable photonic devices. Our proof‐of‐concept demonstration showcases a‐Si:H‐based reconfigurable photonics that support multiple purpose photonic integrated circuits, reconfigurable metamaterials, and advanced optomechanical devices.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1901680
Number of pages11
JournalAdvanced Optical Materials
Issue number6
Early online date13 Jan 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2020


  • hydrogenated amorphous silicon
  • metastable
  • photonics
  • programmable
  • reconfigurable


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