Optical interconnects on printed circuit boards
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The ever-increasing need for higher bandwidth and density is one of the motivations for extensive research on planar optoelectronic structures on printed circuit board (PCB) substrates. Among these applications, optical interconnects have received considerable attention in the last decade. Several optical interconnect techniques, such as free space, guided wave, board level and fiber array interconnects, have been introduced for system level applications. In all planar optoelectronic systems, optical waveguides are crucial elements that facilitate signal routing. Low propagation loss, high reliability and manufacturability are among the requirements of polymer optical waveguides and polymer passive devices on PCB substrates for practical applications. Besides fabrication requirements, reliable characterization tools are needed to accurately and nondestructively measure important guiding properties, such as waveguide propagation loss. In three-dimensional (3D) fully embedded board-level optical interconnects, another key challenge is to realize efficient optical coupling between in-plane waveguides and out-of-plane laser/detector devices. Driven by these motivations, the research presented in this thesis focuses on some fundamental studies of optical interconnects for PCB substrates, e.g., developing low-loss optical polymer waveguides with integrated efficient out-of-plane couplers for optical interconnects on printed circuit board substrates, as well as the demonstration of a novel free-space optical interconnect system by using a volume holographic thin film. Firstly, the theoretical and experimental investigations on the limitations of using mercury i-line ultraviolet (UV) proximity photolithography have been carried out, and the metallization techniques for fine copper line formation are explored. Then, a new type of low-loss polymer waveguides (i.e., capped waveguide) is demonstrated by using contact photolithography with considerable performance improvement over the conventional waveguides. To characterize the propagation properties of planar optical waveguides, a reliable, nondestructive, and real-time technique is presented based on accurately imaging the scattered light from the waveguide using a sensitive charge coupled device (CCD) camera that has a built-in integration functionality. To provide surface normal light coupling between waveguides and optoelectronic devices for optical interconnects, a simple method is presented here to integrate 45° total internal reflection micro-mirrors with polymer optical waveguides by an improved tilted beam photolithography (with the aid of de-ionized water) on PCBs. A new technique is developed for a thin layer of metal coating on the micro-mirrors to achieve higher reflection and coupling efficiency (i.e., above 90%). The combination of the capped waveguide technique and the improved tilted UV exposure technique along with a hard reusable metal mask for metal deposition eliminates the usage of the traditional lift-off process, greatly simplifies the process, and reduces fabrication cost without sacrificing the coating quality. For the study of free-space optical interconnects, a simple system is presented by employing a single thin-film polymeric volume holographic element. One 2-spherical-beam hologram is used to link each point light source with the corresponding photodetector. An 8-channel free-space optical interconnect system with high link efficiency is demonstrated by using a single volume holographic element where 8 holograms are recorded.