Thermal-optic switch by total internal reflection of micromachined silicon prism

T. Zhong, Xuming Zhang, A. Q. Liu, J. Li, Chao Lu, D. Y. Tang

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


This paper reports the conceptual design and experimental demonstration of an optical switch that utilizes the thermooptic effect (TOE) and total internal reflection (TIR) of a micromachined silicon prism. The key idea is to change the refractive index of the prism via TOE to switch the light from the transmission state to the TIR state. The structure is fabricated by microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) technology on a silicon-on-insulator wafer. It requires a temperature change of 69 K to switch from the transmission to the reflection states, which measure isolations of 15.6 and 40.1 dB, respectively. This design is advantageous over the other waveguide switches and photonic crystal devices in the aspects of the absence of beam splitting, tremendously enhanced sensitivity of switching to small change in refractive index, high compactness, and potentially fast and low power switching.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)348-358
Number of pages11
JournalIEEE Journal on Selected Topics in Quantum Electronics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2007


  • Microelectromechanical systems (MEMS)
  • Optical switch
  • Thermo-optic effect (TOE)
  • Total internal reflection (TIR)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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