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Large-scale synthesis of a silicon photonic crystal with a complete three-dimensional bandgap near 1.5 micrometres


Photonic technology, using light instead of electrons as the information carrier, is increasingly replacing electronics in communication and information management systems. Microscopic light manipulation, for this purpose, is achievable through photonic bandgap materials1,2, a special class of photonic crystals in which three-dimensional, periodic dielectric constant variations controllably prohibit electromagnetic propagation throughout a specified frequency band. This can result in the localization of photons3,4,5,6, thus providing a mechanism for controlling and inhibiting spontaneous light emission that can be exploited for photonic device fabrication. In fact, carefully engineered line defects could act as waveguides connecting photonic devices in all-optical microchips7, and infiltration of the photonic material with suitable liquid crystals might produce photonic bandgap structures (and hence light-flow patterns) fully tunable by an externally applied voltage8,9,10. However, the realization of this technology requires a strategy for the efficient synthesis of high-quality, large-scale photonic crystals with photonic bandgaps at micrometre and sub-micrometre wavelengths, and with rationally designed line and point defects for optical circuitry. Here we describe single crystals of silicon inverse opal with a complete three-dimensional photonic bandgap centred on 1.46 µm, produced by growing silicon inside the voids of an opal template of close-packed silica spheres that are connected by small ‘necks’ formed during sintering, followed by removal of the silica template. The synthesis method is simple and inexpensive, yielding photonic crystals of pure silicon that are easily integrated with existing silicon-based microelectronics.

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Figure 1: Silicon-infiltrated opal.
Figure 2: SEM images of internal facets of silicon inverse opal: a, [110] facet.
Figure 3: Band structure of silicon inverse opal with an 88% infiltration of Si into the available opal template voids.
Figure 4: Reflection spectrum from the inverse silicon opal.

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This work was supported in part by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, Photonics Research Ontario, the Fundacion Ramon Areces, the Spanish CICyT project and the European Community Project. We are grateful to I. Sokolov and N. Coombs for their technical assistance with the AFM and SEM images (Figs 1 and 2).

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Correspondence to Sajeev John.

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Blanco, A., Chomski, E., Grabtchak, S. et al. Large-scale synthesis of a silicon photonic crystal with a complete three-dimensional bandgap near 1.5 micrometres. Nature 405, 437–440 (2000).

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