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In situ 3D nanoprinting of free-form coupling elements for hybrid photonic integration


Hybrid photonic integration combines complementary advantages of different material platforms, offering superior performance and flexibility compared with monolithic approaches. This applies in particular to multi-chip concepts, where components can be individually optimized and tested. The assembly of such systems, however, requires expensive high-precision alignment and adaptation of optical mode profiles. We show that these challenges can be overcome by in situ printing of facet-attached beam-shaping elements. Our approach allows precise adaptation of vastly dissimilar mode profiles and permits alignment tolerances compatible with cost-efficient passive assembly techniques. We demonstrate a selection of beam-shaping elements at chip and fibre facets, achieving coupling efficiencies of up to 88% between edge-emitting lasers and single-mode fibres. We also realize printed free-form mirrors that simultaneously adapt beam shape and propagation direction, and we explore multi-lens systems for beam expansion. The concept paves the way to automated assembly of photonic multi-chip systems with unprecedented performance and versatility.

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Fig. 1: Photonic multi-chip assembly combining the distinct advantages of different photonic integration platforms.
Fig. 2: Artist’s view and experimental realizations of various beam-shaping elements that can be used as universal building blocks for hybrid photonic multi-chip systems.
Fig. 3: Coupling of edge-emitting DFB lasers to SMFs.
Fig. 4: Coupling experiments of optical components equipped with free-form mirrors.
Fig. 5: Coupling experiments using beam expanders on lasers and waveguides.
Fig. 6: Coupling experiments using expanders for relaxing alignment tolerances.


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We thank P. Trocha for help with the high-power measurements, M. Hummel for fabricating mechanical setups, O. Speck for fibre preparation, F. Rupp and P. Abaffy for recording SEM images, S. Dottermusch for the absorption measurements, G. Göring and N. Schneider for the AFM measurements, and K. Wörhoff and A. Leinse, both at LioniX BV, for TriPleX chips. This work was supported by the Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (BMBF) Project PHOIBOS (Grant 13N12574) and PRIMA (13N14629 and 13N14630), the Helmholtz International Research School for Teratronics (HIRST), the European Research Council (ERC Starting Grant ‘EnTeraPIC’, # 280145), the H2020 Photonic Packaging Pilot Line PIXAPP (# 731954), the EU-FP7 project BigPipes, the Alfried Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach Foundation, the Karlsruhe Nano-Micro Facility (KNMF) and the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, 1173). P.-I.D. acknowledges support from the IBM PhD Fellowship Program.

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Authors and Affiliations



P.-I.D. designed, simulated, fabricated and characterized coupling structures and devices with help from M.Bl., I.R., M.Bi., T.H. and A.H., supervised by C.K. M.Bl. supplied advanced tools and techniques for 3D printing. M.Bi. and T.H. supported fabrication and measurement of test structures. C.C., R.D. and B.O. contributed to fabrication of test chips elements. U.T. and M.M. contributed InP-based components. Device concepts and coupling schemes were jointly conceived by P.-I.D., M.Bl., R.D., B.O. and C.K. All authors discussed the data. The project was supervised by W.F. and C.K. The manuscript was written by P.-I.D., W.F. and C.K.

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Correspondence to P.-I. Dietrich or C. Koos.

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Competing interests

P.-I.D. and C.K. are co-founders and shareholders of Vanguard Photonics GmbH, a start-up company engaged in exploiting 3D nanoprinting in the field of photonic integration and assembly. P.-I.D., M.B., I.R. and C.K. are co-inventors of patents owned by Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) in the technical field of the publication.

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Supplementary Information

This file contains details on the determination of surface roughness by atomic force microscopy, coupling experiments with facet-attached lenses, coupling to TriPleX chips, reproducibility and accuracy.

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Dietrich, PI., Blaicher, M., Reuter, I. et al. In situ 3D nanoprinting of free-form coupling elements for hybrid photonic integration. Nature Photon 12, 241–247 (2018).

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