Hybrid integration of a polarization independent optical circulator
Nonreciprocal optical functionalities like optical isolators and circulators are key components for the suppression of unwanted optical feedback in lasers and are also widely used for light routing in fiber-based measurement systems such as optical coherence tomography. Therefore, they are important building blocks in integrated optics, which promises further miniaturization and cost reduction of optical elements for telecom, datacom, and sensing applications. In this work, we experimentally demonstrate a four-port polarization independent optical circulator on a polymer-based hybrid integration platform. The circulator consists of polymer waveguides and two thin-film polarization beam splitters (PBSs) inserted into waveguides via etched slots. Crystalline, pre-magnetized bulk Faraday rotators (FRs) and half-wave plates (HWPs) are inserted into free-space sections, formed by pairs of waveguide butt-coupled GRIN lenses. For a first demonstrator, on-chip losses down to 5 dB and optical isolations up to 24 dB were measured, depending on the different input and output constellations, as well as the polarization. By applying an external magnetic field opposite to the magnetization of the faraday rotators, it is possible to repole the magneto-optic material, leading to reversely circulating light inside the device. This enables optical switching between ports in form of a latching switch, which maintains its state after removing the external magnetic field.