The rapid increase in demand for telecommunications services has not been followed by a commensurate increase in the technology capable of providing these services. Demand for higher-bandwidth switches is stronger now than it has ever been. Current electronic routing technologies are stretched nearly to their theoretical limits and in order to make the required leap in bandwidth capabilities, a move to nonlinear optical switch-based technologies is clearly required.
In this proposal, we put forth a research plan aimed at providing a deep understanding of the technologies underlying a nonlinear optical crossbar switch based on the four-wave mixing soliton dynamics that occur in third-order nonlinear integrated optical waveguides. The proposal makes use of new results demonstrating the existence of multi-color four-wave mixing solitons where the phasematching between frequency components in a dispersive medium is accomplished by both cross-phase modulation and four-wave mixing. These new results suggest that it should be possible to switch data using a nonlinear optical crossbar switch based on the four-wave mixing solitons. Several additional advantages will also be realized by using this technology. The most important of these is the intrinsic parametric amplification of the data beam that can take place as it passes through the switch, thus counteracting coupling losses that naturally occur as light is coupled from the long-haul fiber into and out of the switch. In addition, the switch will be fabricated from nonlinear optical slab dielectric waveguides grown from the well-characterized AlGaAs/GaAs material system, and so there far fewer fabrication difficulties to overcome.
Our research plan uses analytical, numerical, and experimental methods to understand the four-wave mixing soliton properties that underly the construction of such a switch. The work proposed here utilizes the unique expertise of the PI, coupled with a novel new approach to the problem of high data rate switching, to solve an extraordinarily important problem facing the telecommunications industry. ***