Optofluidic Passive Parity-time-symmetric Systems

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This research introduces a novel methodology of harnessing liquids to facilitate the realization of parity-time (PT)-symmetric optical waveguides on highly integrated microscale platforms. Additionally, we propose a realistic and detailed fabrication process flow, demonstrating the practical feasibility of fabricating our optofluidic system, thereby bridging the gap between theoretical design and actual implementation. Extensive research has been conducted over the past two decades on PT-symmetric systems across various fields, given their potential to foster a new generation of compact, power-efficient sensors and signal processors with enhanced performance. Passive PT-symmetry in optics can be achieved by evanescently coupling two optical waveguides and incorporating an optically lossy material into one of the waveguides. The essential coupling distance between two optical waveguides in air is usually less than 500 nm for near-infrared wavelengths and under 100 nm for ultraviolet wavelengths. This necessitates the construction of the coupling region via expensive and time-consuming electron beam lithography, posing a significant manufacturing challenge for the mass production of PT-symmetric optical systems. We propose a solution to this fabrication challenge by introducing liquids capable of dynamic flow between optical waveguides. This technique allows the attainment of evanescent wave coupling with coupling gap dimensions compatible with standard photolithography processes. Consequently, this paves the way for the cost-effective, rapid and large-scale production of PT-symmetric optofluidic systems, applicable across a wide range of fields.


© 2024 The Authors. Published by the Royal Society under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4), which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.

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The authors gratefully acknowledge fellowship support from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine under Contract Number FA9550-18-D-0002. This research was also funded by the U.S. Department of the Air Force.

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Royal Society Open Science