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IEEE PHOTONICS TECHNOLOGY LETTERS, VOL. 17, NO. 5, MAY 2005

All-Optical Flip-Flop Multimode Interference


Bistable Laser Diode
Mitsuru Takenaka, Member, IEEE, Maura Raburn, Member, IEEE, and Yoshiaki Nakano, Member, IEEE

AbstractAll-optical flip-flop operation of multimode interference bistable laser diodes (MMI-BLDs) was experimentally
demonstrated for the first time. The MMI-BLD was prepared with
a conventional ridge waveguide laser diode fabrication procedure,
suitable for photonic integrated circuits. Bistable switching via
two-mode bistability was obtained with approximately 0-dBm
input powers due to cross-gain saturation and the saturable
absorbers. Bit-length conversion was successfully obtained with
noninverted and inverted outputs. This device will be useful in
future photonic systems requiring all-optical latching functions
such as optical memory, self-routing, and further optical signal
processing.
Index TermsBistable laser diode (BLD), bit-length conversion,
flip-flop, gain saturation, multimode interference (MMI) coupler,
optical memory, two-mode bistability.

I. INTRODUCTION

UTURE photonic networks such as photonic burst


switching and packet switching will require all-optical
flip-flops to provide latching functions necessary for packet
buffers, self-routing, wavelength converters, regenerators, and
bit-length converters. Bistable laser diodes (BLDs) have been
investigated to realize all-optical flip-flops because of their
advantages of optical gain, low optical switching power, high
ONOFF ratios, and large fanouts [1]. Recently, BLDs based
on vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers [2], [3] and coupled
cavity lasers [4], [5] have been developed for the realization
of all-optical flip-flops. On the other hand, conventional BLDs
with saturable absorbers [6] cannot be used for all-optical
flip-flops despite stable operation because there is no practical
method for optical reset. To overcome this problem, two-mode
intensity bistability [7], which originate from cross-gain saturation between two lasing modes, has been investigated. Although
this bistability was demonstrated by cross-coupled BLDs [8],
[9], these devices had somewhat complicated waveguide structures. Recently, we have proposed a novel optical flip-flop based
Manuscript received November 29, 2004; revised January 6, 2005. This work
was performed under management of the Optoelectronic Industry and Technology Development Association (OITDA) supported by NEDO. Photolithography masks were fabricated using an EB lithography apparatus of VLSI Design
and Education Center (VDEC), University of Tokyo.
M. Takenaka is with Information Devices Laboratory, Research Center
for Advanced Science and Technology, The University of Tokyo, Tokyo
153-8904, Japan, and also with the Optoelectronic Industry and Technology Development Association (OITDA), Tokyo 112-0014, Japan (e-mail:
takenaka@hotaka.t.u-tokyo.ac.jp).
M. Raburn is with Information Devices Laboratory, Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology, The University of Tokyo, Tokyo 153-8904,
Japan (e-mail: maura@hotaka.t.u-tokyo.ac.jp).
Y. Nakano is with Information Devices Laboratory, Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology, The University of Tokyo, Tokyo 153-8904,
Japan, and also with CREST, the Japan Science and Technology Corporation,
Tokyo 150-0002, Japan (e-mail: nakano@hotaka.t.u-tokyo.ac.jp).
Digital Object Identifier 10.1109/LPT.2005.844322

Fig. 1. Schematic view of the MMI-BLD composed of a 2 2 active MMI


cross coupler and two saturable absorbers. Two cross-coupled lasing modes are
illustrated in the insets. Each size is designed as follows: L
595 m, W
12 m, W
2 m, L
200 m, and W
2 m.

on a multimode interference bistable laser diode (MMI-BLD)


[10]. The MMI-BLD is composed of an active MMI cross
coupler in which two-mode bistability occurs due to cross-gain
saturation. Active MMI couplers have been mainly studied by
Hamamoto et al. for high output power lasers [11], [12]. The
MMI-BLD can be fabricated with conventional laser diode
(LD) processes, which makes it suitable for photonic integrated
circuits. Moreover, it is compact, and has high design tolerance
and large optical bandwidth due to MMI device advantages
[13]. This device is also capable of high-speed switching around
40 Gb/s. In this letter, all-optical flip-flop operation based on
two-mode bistability is reported using the MMI-BLD for the
first time. The two lasing modes were switched digitally with
optical set and reset signals, and both noninverted and inverted
outputs were clearly obtained in bit-length conversion.
II. PRINCIPLE OF OPERATION
A schematic view of the MMI-BLD is shown in Fig. 1.
All waveguides including the 2 2 MMI coupler consist of
active materials. Saturable absorbers are located at the end
of the output ports to obtain hysteresis. The 2 2 MMI is
designed as a cross coupler, and there are two cross-coupled
lasing modes as illustrated in the insets of Fig. 1 (Mode 1 and
Mode 2), which are the photon density distributions calculated
by the finite-difference beam propagation method. Two-mode
bistability between these two lasing modes will occur due to
cross-gain saturation and the saturable absorbers if the injection
current is within the hysteresis loop [10]. A set signal injected
to the set port saturates the absorption to Mode 1, causing Mode

1041-1135/$20.00 2005 IEEE

TAKENAKA et al.: ALL-OPTICAL FLIP-FLOP MMI-BLD

969

Fig. 2. Top photograph of the fabricated MMI-BLD. The saturable absorber


length was designed to be 120 m and the total device length was approximately
1000 m.

1 to start lasing. At the same time, cross-gain saturation and


the absorption to Mode 2 by the saturable absorber suppress
Mode 2. In a similar manner, a reset signal switches the lasing
mode from Mode 1 to Mode 2. Therefore, all-optical flip-flop
operation is achievable with the MMI-BLD, because external
light injection to each input port will select the mode to lase.

Fig. 3. LI characteristic of the MMI-BLD. The MMI-BLD showed


hysteresis due to nonlinear absorption of the saturable absorbers. The hysteresis
loop for threshold current in both lasing modes appeared between 156 and
163 mA.

III. DESIGN AND FABRICATION


The MMI-BLD was fabricated with a conventional process
for ridge waveguide LDs. The multilayer structure incorporating a 0.8% compressively strained 1.55- m InGaAsP
multiquantum well active layer was grown on an n-InP substrate by metalorganic vapor phase epitaxy. A waveguide
pattern was first defined by photolithography, followed by
selective wet etching process to make ridge waveguides. Electron-beam (EB) evaporation of Al O followed by liftoff was
employed to create a current-blocking region. Then, the TiAu
p-contact electrode was deposited by EB evaporator. To form
the saturable absorbers, the electrodes between the gain and
absorber sections were separated by chemical wet etching.
Therefore, the material of the saturable absorbers was same as
the gain material. A top photograph of the fabricated device
, the MMI width
is shown in Fig. 2. The MMI length
, and the port offset
were designed to be
595, 12, and 2 m, respectively. The width
and
length
of the input and output ports were designed to
be 2 and 200 m, respectively. The saturable absorber length
was designed to be 120 m and the total device length was
approximately 1000 m.
IV. MEASUREMENTS
The fabricated MMI-BLDs were bonded on Cu submounts,
whose temperature was maintained at 20 C by a thermoelectric
cooler. The optical input and output coupling was done by standard single-mode lensed fibers with an estimated coupling loss
of 6 dB. The input and output power reported in this letter are
power in fiber. In the following experiments, no reverse bias was
applied to the saturable absorbers. First, we measured the splitting ratio of the MMI coupler, defined as the power ratio of cross
to bar outputs, which was found to be more than 10 dB. Then, we
evaluated the static characteristics of the MMI-BLD. Fig. 3 shows
the light outputcurrent ( ) characteristic. Due to saturable absorption, the hysteresis loop for threshold current in both lasing
modes appeared between 156 and 163 mA. There were double
loops for Mode 1 due to cross-gain saturation caused by the laser
radiation of Mode 2 at 163 mA. When the injection current was
approximately 160 mA, we obtained optical flip-flop operation.

Fig. 4. Optical reset operation with 1556-nm reset light injection. The
injection current was approximately 160 mA. The lasing mode was switched
from Mode 1 to Mode 2 due to cross-gain saturation with a reset power of
around 0 dBm.

The lasing wavelength was roughly 1556 nm. The lasing spectrum was similar to a FabryProt lasers one. Fig. 4 shows the
static characteristic of the optical reset operation with 1556-nm
optical reset light injection. The experimental setup was similar
to that of the dynamic measurement shown in Fig. 5. The reset
signal was injected to the opposite end of the MMI-BLD from
the end to which the set signal was injected, because the spacing
of the two input ports was too narrow for simultaneous access.
However, there is no difference in the switching performance, as
compared to the manner in Fig. 1. The lasing mode was switched
digitally from Mode 1 to Mode 2 due to cross-gain saturation. The
required reset power was approximately 0 dBm. The increase of
the output power in the region of the large input power was the
leakage of the input light.
Next, we measured the dynamic switching behavior of the
optical flip-flop. The measurement setup is illustrated in Fig. 5.
We used 1556-nm 8-dBm continuous-wave light as the signal
source. The optical data pulses were created by an optical intensity modulator with data signals from a pulse pattern generator
and they were divided into set pulses and reset pulses by a 3-dB
coupler. We used a fiber delay line to create a delay between

970

Fig. 5. Experimental setup for the measurement of dynamic switching


behavior of the all-optical flip-flop. The optical data pulses were created by
an optical modulator and a 3-dB coupler. The width and repetition period of
the data pulses were 10 and 320 ns, respectively. The optical reset pulses were
delayed 200 ns by a 40-m fiber delay line.

IEEE PHOTONICS TECHNOLOGY LETTERS, VOL. 17, NO. 5, MAY 2005

impulses observed in the outputs were the leakage of the set and
reset light.
In normal absorptive BLDs, the speed of all-optical flip-flop
operation is limited by a relaxation oscillation frequency. However, the switching time of the MMI-BLD can be over its relaxation oscillation frequency because the carrier change of the
gain region between the Mode 1 and the Mode 2 states is suppressed due to the overlap of the two lasing modes. In this experiment, the switching time was mainly limited by the slow
carrier escape time of the saturable absorber because no reverse
bias was applied to the saturable absorbers. It can be improved
to around 40 Gb/s by applying the reverse bias to the saturable
absorber.
V. CONCLUSION
All-optical flip-flop operation with noninverted and inverted
outputs was demonstrated through two-mode bistability in an
MMI-BLD. The two lasing modes were switched digitally with
small input optical power levels around 0 dBm due to crossgain saturation and the saturable absorbers. Bit-length conversion was also demonstrated by down-converting the input pulse
stream to wider pulses. The MMI-BLD has the potential for
high-speed switching beyond 40 Gb/s and is suitable for integration with other devices. This device will be useful in future
photonic systems requiring all-optical latching functions such
as optical memory, self-routing, wavelength conversion, regeneration, and further optical signal processing.
REFERENCES

Fig. 6. Dynamic outputs of all-optical flip-flop operation: (a) set signal;


(b) reset signal; (c) output of Mode 1; and (d) output of Mode 2. The lasing
states of Mode 1 and Mode 2 were switched by the set/reset input pulses, thus
converting the pulsewidth from 10 to 200 ns and 120 ns, respectively.

the set pulse and reset pulse. The signal power levels were adjusted using variable optical attenuators. Both the pulses were
adjusted to the transverse electric mode with polarization controllers. The output signals from the MMI-BLD were extracted
through optical circulators and fed into a digital sampling oscilloscope. The width and repetition period of the data pulses
were 10 and 320 ns, respectively. The reset pulses were delayed
200 ns by a 40-m fiber delay line.
Fig. 6(a) and (b) shows the set and reset light. Fig. 6(c) and (d)
shows the outputs of Mode 1 and Mode 2, respectively. It can be
seen in Fig. 6(c) that the lasing state of Mode 1 was switched by
the set/reset input pulses, thus converting the pulsewidth from
10 to 200 ns. Moreover, the inverted output was obtained from
the output of Mode 2 as shown in Fig. 6(d). The input pulses
were converted from 10 to 120 ns in the inverted output. The

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