# Small electro-optic modulator and phase-shifting light

• nkinar
In summary, the conversation discusses the possibility of constructing a small electro-optic modulator using Lithium Niobate as the material. This material has large electro-optic coefficients and can change its physical properties when an electric field is applied. The setup involves passing an electric field across the block of Lithium Niobate, which causes a phase shift in the light beam traveling through it. The required voltage for a specific phase shift is calculated, and it is found that a small separation distance between electrodes is necessary for feasibility. The conversation also touches on potential challenges and questions, such as finding a substance with a larger electro-optic coefficient and the cost of manufacturing such a device.
nkinar
I am wondering if it is possible to construct a small electro-optic modulator which is able to create a large change in the refractive index of a material such as Lithium Niobate. The change in the refractive index will also cause a phase shift in the light beam.

An electo-optic material changes its physical properties when an electric field is applied across the material. Lithium Niobate is often used as a material for electro-optic modulators since its electo-optic coefficients are very large.

Suppose that we have the following setup. An ordinary polarized light beam is incident on a block of Lithium Niobate with a length of y (meters) and a height of d (meters). The light beam moves along the y-axis, which is taken in this system to be horizontal. An electric field is passed across the block of Lithium Niobate (along the z axis) by two electrodes--one placed on the top of the block, and the other placed on the bottom. The direction of the electric field is vertical across the block, and perpendicular to the travel path of the light beam.

Code:
                                                   electrode
|
|
=====================================
Light beam                 BLOCK OF LITHIUM NIOBATE
---------->
=====================================
|
|
electrode
<---------------------y------------------------>

The change in the ordinary index of refraction of the Lithium Niobate is:

$$$\Delta n_0 = \frac{{ - n_0^3 r_{13} V}}{{2d}}$$$

Where

$$\Delta n_0$$
= Change in the ordinary refractive index

$$n_0$$
= ordinary refractive index of the Lithium Niobate

$$n_0 = 2.1763$$

$$r_{13}$$
= electro-optic coefficient of the Lithium Niobate

$$r_{13} = 7.62 \times 10^{ - 12} {\rm{ m/V}}$$

$$d$$
= distance over which the electric field acts (meters)

$$V$$
= Voltage

From the classical properties of waves, the change in the phase of the light wave $$\Delta \phi$$ is related to the angular wavenumber $$k$$, the change in the index of refraction $$\Delta n_0$$ and the distance traveled $$y$$ through the block by the expressions:

$$$\Delta \phi = k\Delta n_0 y$$$

$$$\Delta \phi = \frac{{2\pi \Delta n_0 y}}{\lambda }$$$

By substituting the change in the index of refraction into the above, it follows that:

$$$\Delta \phi = \frac{{ - \pi n_0^3 r_{13} Vy}}{{\lambda d}}$$$

Solving for the voltage ($$V$$) :

$$$V = - \frac{{\Delta \phi \lambda d}}{{\pi n_0^3 r_{13} y}}$$$

Now suppose that the wavelength of the light wave is $$\lambda = 450nm$$, and that the required phase shift is $$\Delta \phi = 2.1 \times 10^6$$. Note that the sign of the phase shift is positive. I am not completely certain as to whether this is physically possible, but I'll take a look at it mathematically. Suppose that we plug the following into the equation used to solve for voltage:

$$\Delta \phi = 2.1 \times 10^{6}$$

$$\lambda = 450nm$$

$$d = 0.1 \times 10^{-6} m$$

$$n_{0} = 2.1763$$

$$r_{13} = 7.62 \times 10^{-12} m/V$$

$$y = 1.0 \times 10^{-1}m$$

Note that the distance ($$d$$) over which the electric field acts is very small: only 0.1 micrometer! The horizontal distance traveled by the light wave through the Lithium Niobate block is 10 cm.

Evaluating the expression, I find that:

$$V = -3829.8V$$

Now clearly it is not impossible to generate a voltage of -3kV. Note that as the separation distance ($$d$$) increases, the applied voltage required to create the phase shift also increases as well. Increasing the separation distance shows that thousands or millions of volts are required to cause a phase shift this large in the incident light beam. This suggests that the separation distance between the electrodes must be very small for such a setup to be feasible.

This leads me to my questions:

(1) Is there an easier way of doing this: to create a large magnitude phase shift in a light beam?

(2) Can a negative voltage be applied to an electro-optic crystal? If so, is it physically reasonable to use a negative voltage to change the refractive index of the Lithium Niobate block? I think that the answer to this question is "yes," and the answer is supported by the mathematics above. I also think that it is possible for the light to have a positive phase shift.

(3) Is it possible to make such an apparatus? Is it possible to deposit a thin layer of Lithium Niobate (with a thickness of 0.1 micrometer) on a substrate, and attach electrodes to the top and the bottom of the layer to create an electric field?

(4) Does anyone know of a substance with a larger electro-optic coefficient? If $$r_{13}$$ increases (becomes larger), then the voltage required to create the phase shift drops appreciably.

(5) How might I manufacture such a device? Would it be possible to manufacture something like this? If so, what would be the cost to create this apparatus? Any guesses based on similar or related research? Is there a good monograph on creating tiny (micro) light guides?

(6) Suppose that I use a lens to send an image through the Lithium Niobate block. The lens is coupled to a piece of fiber optic. How would I interface the piece of fiber optic to the left side of the Lithium Niobate block?

(7) Could an image be focused by a lens and sent through the Lithium Niobate block? Note that d = 0.1 micrometer, which is a very small distance.

Here is something that looks really similar to what I am describing:

http://www.lumera.com/Products/Modulators.php

Last edited by a moderator:

I find your questions and proposed setup very interesting. Here are my thoughts on your inquiries:

1) There may be alternative ways to create a large phase shift in a light beam, such as using other types of modulators or optical elements. However, the electro-optic modulator you described is a viable option and has been used in various applications.

2) Yes, it is possible to apply a negative voltage to an electro-optic crystal. In fact, both positive and negative voltages can be used to change the refractive index of the crystal. The sign of the voltage will depend on the direction of the electric field applied.

3) It is certainly possible to deposit a thin layer of Lithium Niobate on a substrate and attach electrodes to create an electric field. This is a common method used in the fabrication of electro-optic modulators.

4) There are other materials with larger electro-optic coefficients, such as Barium Titanate and Potassium Titanyl Phosphate. However, these materials also have their own limitations and trade-offs. Lithium Niobate is still a popular choice due to its combination of large electro-optic coefficient and other desirable properties.

5) The manufacturing process for such a device would depend on the specific design and materials used. It is possible to create small and precise components using techniques such as lithography and etching. The cost would also depend on the materials and complexity of the device. I would suggest consulting with experts in the field or conducting a cost analysis to get a better estimate.

6) To interface the fiber optic to the Lithium Niobate block, you could use a fiber collimator or lens to focus the light onto the block. Alternatively, you could use a fiber pigtail attached to the block.

7) Yes, it is possible to focus an image through the Lithium Niobate block. However, the small distance of d = 0.1 micrometer may cause some challenges in terms of alignment and coupling efficiency. It may be necessary to use specialized techniques and components to achieve the desired results.

## 1. What is a small electro-optic modulator?

A small electro-optic modulator is a device that is used to control the amplitude, phase, or polarization of light. It is typically made up of an electro-optic material, such as lithium niobate, that can change its optical properties when an electric field is applied.

## 2. How does a small electro-optic modulator work?

A small electro-optic modulator works by using the electro-optic effect, which is the change in the refractive index of a material when an electric field is applied. This change in refractive index allows the modulator to change the properties of light passing through it, such as its intensity, phase, or polarization.

## 3. What is phase-shifting light?

Phase-shifting light refers to the process of changing the phase of a light wave. This can be achieved by using a phase-shifting element, such as a small electro-optic modulator, which changes the refractive index of the material to alter the phase of the light passing through it.

## 4. What are the applications of small electro-optic modulators and phase-shifting light?

Small electro-optic modulators and phase-shifting light have a wide range of applications in fields such as telecommunications, data communication, and optical sensing. They are also used in scientific research and in various types of optical instrumentation.

## 5. How does the size of a small electro-optic modulator affect its performance?

The size of a small electro-optic modulator can affect its performance in several ways. A smaller modulator may have lower power handling capabilities and a narrower bandwidth compared to a larger one. However, smaller modulators can also have advantages such as faster response times and lower power consumption.

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