21 February 2012 Congratulations to New ICFO PhD graduate

Dr. Domenico Tulli

Thesis Committee

Dr. Domenico Tulli graduated with a thesis on micro-nano structured electro-optic devices. Dr. Tulli received a Master’s degree in Telecommunications Engineering at, Università di Bologna, Italy. In 2007 he joined ICFO and has been working on projects related Electro-Optic devices within the Optoelectronics group led by Prof. Valerio Pruneri.

Dr. Tulli presented a thesis titled \'Micro-nano structured Electro-Optic devices in LiNbO3 for communication and sensing’. His thesis was supervised by ICFO Group Leader and ICREA Prof. Valerio Pruneri and co-supervised by Dr. Davide Janner


A material that is enabling integrated optics is the ferroelectric crystal Lithium Niobate (LiNbO3), which has excellent electro-optical, acousto-optical and nonlinear optical properties. Moreover, it can be doped with laser-active ions and allows for simple fabrication of low-loss optical waveguides. The broad aim of this work is to develop and introduce advanced micro- and nano-fabrication techniques for LiNbO3 and a new class of integrated based telecommunication and sensing devices. The techniques developed include precise micro-domain inversion, etching, bonding and thin film fabrication.

From a device point of view, domain inversion is used to improve the electro-optic response of LiNbO3 waveguide modulators in terms of bandwidth and driving voltage. With respect to standard single-domain structures, larger bandwidths and lower driving voltages can be obtained, thus achieving figure of merits for the electro-optic response that are up to 50% larger. As a demonstration, a chirp-free modulator, having ~2V switching voltage and bandwidth of 15 GHz, was fabricated by placing the waveguide arms of a Mach-Zehnder interferometer in opposite do- main oriented regions. The modulator could be driven in a single-drive configuration with inexpensive low-voltage drivers, e.g. a SiGe based RF amplifier, typically used for electro-absorption devices.

A further aspect of this work focuses on the development of devices for the precise measurement of strong electric fields, which are typically generated in power stations and transmission lines. Therefore, two new integrated electric field sensors are proposed, each of which exploits the aforementioned micro-fabrication techniques. The first device is based on a proton-exchange waveguide at cut-off, centered on a few microns wide domain-inverted region in a z-cut LiNbO3 substrate. The sensor’s performance is demonstrated by detecting DC fields up to 2.6 MV/m and high-frequency (1.1 GHz) fields ranging from 19 V/m to 23 kV/m. The second proposed device is fabricated by direct bonding a z-cut LiNbO3 substrate on top of a cut-off proton-exchanged waveguide centered on the domain-inverted region. It is possible to detect electric fields as high as 2 MV/m at low frequency with improved sensitivity compared to the previous device. These features make the devices suitable for use in high electric field and harsh conditions without endangering the operator. The conclusions section of the Thesis presents possible future developments which will contribute to increase the impact of the work in the optical telecommunication and sensing industries.

After a brief introduction, the second chapter describes the basic properties of the material used in the thesis work: Lithium Niobate (LiNbO3). This includes the properties related to its ferroelectric crystal structure and the subsequent applications. Chapter three presents the micro-fabrication techniques, over 3 inch LiNbO3 wafers, developed at ICFO during this work. The chapter begins with a description of waveguides fabrication by Annealed Proton Exchange (APE). The mid-part of the chapter outlines the fabrication procedure for domain inversion using electric field poling technique and liquid electrodes while the last part describes the bonding technique to permanently join LiNbO3 with different substrates, namely Si, SiO2 and another LiNbO3. Moreover, lapping and polishing techniques for thin plate fabrication are presented. The forth chapter firstly introduces the fundamentals and main characteristics of travelling-wave LiNbO3 Mach-Zehnder modulators. Secondly, a new modulator design is proposed. It is based on domain inverted LiNbO3, with improved performance with respect to existing devices. The modulator characterization and the results obtained from the new design are presented. The chapter five begins with a literature review about DC and low frequency electric field optical sensors. Afterwards, two novel all-optical electric field sensors are presented. Both devices are based on a proton-exchange, domain inversion and bonding techniques. The sensors characterization, including the test set-up and the performance results are discussed. Finally, in chapter six, several conclusions on the thesis work and possible future work directions are presented.


President: Dr. Corin Gawith, Senior Research Fellow, University of Southampton, R+D and Team Leader, Covesion Ltd, UNITED KINGDOM

Secretary: Prof. Jordi Martorell, Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya. BarcelonaTech (UPC) and ICFO-Institute of Photonic Sciences, SPAIN

Vocal: Prof. Stefano Longhi, Professor of Physics of Matter, Polytechnic Institute of Milan, ITALY