Reversibly programmable photonic integrated circuits (PICs) that can facilitate multifunctionality have been long sought after to deliver user-level design flexibility. Issues like complicated control, continuous power consumption, and high optical losses hinder their large-scale adaptation. In this work, a novel approach toward programmable photonics using a responsive polyelectrolyte multilayer (PEM) cladding is presented. Reversible (de)swelling of PEMs by consecutive exposure to acidic and neutral pH solutions yields highly contrasting refractive index changes in the dry film. Utilizing this effect, an easily applied technique for programming photonic integrated devices with two different approaches, complete and area-selective deposition, for several reversible cycles is demonstrated. These devices operate at two distinct states that are virtually lossless and nonvolatile. This proof-of-concept demonstration is suitable for various photonic integration platforms to facilitate reconfigurable photonic processors, static memories, and fine-tuning of fabrication related limitations. Therefore, these results are the first step toward PEM-assisted reversibly programmable multipurpose PICs for low-cost mass production.
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-Eindhoven University of Technology: Unique polymer-based fabrication process for low-cost, higher yield reprogrammable photonic integrated circuits
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