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All-Optical Logic Gates

Geoffrey D. Jenkins

EOP 604:
Integrated Optics
Fall 2007
Introduction

A logic gate is a device that performs a certain Boolean logic operation on one or
more logical inputs and produces a single logical output. Boolean algebra is
comprised of operations that give “true” or “false” as a result. In this lies the
foundation of digital electronics and computing. It is standard to express true and
false as 1 and 0, respectively. Logic gates are bistable devices, that is, they may
yield one of these two possible stable outputs. In digital electronic systems it is
common to see “1” correspond to 5 Volts and “0” corresponds to 0 Volts. Standard
notation and operations are displayed below:

The relationship between input and output signals are displayed in what are known
as truth tables. The truth tables for the devices above are displayed here:

AND OR NOT
Input Output Input Output Input Output
0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
0 1 0 0 1 1 1 0
1 0 0 1 0 1 - -
1 1 1 1 1 1 - -

There are several other logic gates not mentioned above, however, that is beyond
the scope of this paper. These devices, accompanied with feedback, can be
connected together in ways that create more complex devices such as latches and
flip-flops, which are basic electronic memory storage devices.
These devices and Boolean logic are not limited to electronics. They have been
demonstrated with optics in many different implementations with various
switching mechanisms. The interest the optics community has in these devices has
spawned from the fact that conventional computational speeds are approaching
limits. [1] Mentions that the miniaturization attempts in lithography (in an attempt
to fit as many transistors as possible on a single chip) are becoming problematic.
Optical computing has, or will have, many advantages over electronic computing
[1]. Some examples include:
• Immunity to electronic interference
• Lighter, more compact systems
• Immunity to short circuits
• Lower-loss transmission
• Significantly more bandwidth
• Easier/cheaper parallel computing
To put things in perspective, it was said that a computation that would take an
electronic computer over eleven years to complete would take an optical computer
less than an hour [1]. This technology seems far off, but hybrid electro-optical
systems are becoming more popular every day. The focus of this paper is all-
optical logic gates, where light is controlled by light rather than electronics.
Logic devices must have a switching mechanism; otherwise the output would be
monostable. Analogous to transistors in electronics, these devices turn light on or
off to certain thresholds. In the aforementioned hybrid devices, the electro-optic
effect is utilized to vary the refractive indices of optical waveguides to make
voltage-controlled switches. Again, these devices are limited by the switching
speed of electronics, so how is this done all-optically? Nonlinear optics is the key.
Consider a two channel directional coupler fabricated from highly nonlinear
optical materials, as first proposed in [2].

n1 


‐a 

n2 
Theory
In the linear scheme, these waveguides are phase matched (Δβ = 0) and 100 %
coupling is achieved from channel one to channel two. From coupled-mode theory,
the field amplitude in each waveguide can be derived from the coupled-mode
equations [3]:

Δβ = β1 – β2

…where u1 and u2 are the transverse mode distributions supported by channels one
and two, respectively, and β1,2 represents the propagation constants of the modes.
Applying a boundary condition stating that at the input end of these waveguides
and the coupled-mode equations above can be solved:
The optical power in each waveguide is proportional to the square of the field,
therefore

As mentioned before, when the waveguides are phase-matched and Δβ = 0, perfect


coupling is achieved and the equations above simplify to

 
In the nonlinear scheme, e.g. when a phase mismatch is induced, the coupling
properties of the device are altered. A power transfer ratio may be expressed as a
P2 / P1, which becomes

This term decreases as ΔβLC increases like shown in the following figure:

To make practical use of this, a phenomenon called the Kerr effect is used. The
Kerr effect is a change of the refractive index of a medium that is directly
proportional to the square of the optical field residing in that medium. Accounting
for nonlinear index changes, the refractive index of a medium may be expressed as

…where is the linear index, is the nonlinear index coefficient [m2/W], E is


the field amplitude, and Z0 is the free space impedance, or 377Ω.
All three logic gates mentioned earlier, the AND, OR, and NOT gates can be
implemented using the Kerr effect and this directional coupler configuration. Let
the inputs of the device be labeled I1 and I2 and the outputs be labeled O1 and O2.

NOT Gate
When a signal beam is launched into I1 and it is not intense enough to cause any
nonlinearities, it will fully couple to the other waveguide at the designed coupling
length, LC as shown in the BPM simulation [4] below.

Refractive index distribution along x-axis

Field amplitude vs. device length: Signal =1; Control = 0


If a second, intense control beam is launched into I1 collinearly with the signal
beam, the signal will see a different refractive index (smaller or larger, depending
on the material’s characteristics) than it did when propagating by itself. This causes
a phase mismatch between the two waveguides. If the intensity is at the switching
threshold, the phase mismatch will be great enough to prohibit coupling
completely. This is demonstrated below, where the refractive index of channel 1
was altered due to an intense control beam.

Field amplitude vs. device length with control beam present

Field amplitude vs. device length: Signal =1; Control = 1


From these CMT simulations, the truth table for a NOT gate is fulfilled between I1
and O2 when considering the control beam as the input. Note that when the control
beam is absent the signal beam crosses channels and becomes the output through
O2. Ports I2 and O1 are neglected.

NOT
Control Output
Beam (O2)
0 1
1 0

AND, OR Gates

AND and OR gates may be implemented using the same device but both input and
output ports are used.
An AND gate may be thought of as a multiplier of both inputs, and can be derived
by looking at the truth table. The only scenario in which the AND gate will be
“true,” or transmitting light, is when both the signal and control beams are
simultaneously incident on the input ports.
OR gates are “true” if at least one of its inputs is “true,” therefore it will always
transmit a signal unless there is no signal available to transmit.
Let the control be incident upon I2 and the signal incident upon I1. Although the
signal beam is propagating by itself in channel 1, it will not couple to channel 2
because the control beam in channel 2 will have altered its refractive index,
thereby inducing a phase-mismatch. The control beam will not couple into channel
1 for the same reason; therefore each beam will remain in its original waveguide
for the entire journey through the device.
This is demonstrated in the following figures in two steps; one simulation each for
the signal and control beams.
AND/OR Gate index distribution: Control beam = 1

Field amplitude through channel 1: Control = Signal = 1

Although there is a slight field transfer midway through, 100% of the power was in
the intended waveguide at the exit of the device.
Field amplitude through channel 2: Control = Signal = 1

If the signal is launched while the control is not, the signal will couple into the
second channel because there will be a phase match between waveguides due to
the absence of nonlinearities.

 
Field amplitude through channel 1: Signal = 1; Control = 0

 
When the outputs and inputs of this device are tabulated in a truth table, it is
apparent that O1 behaves like an AND gate and O2 behaves like an OR gate.

Inputs Outputs
Signal (I1) Control (I2) O1 O2
0 0 0 0
0 1 0 1
1 0 0 1
1 1 1 1

Conclusion
All-optical logic gates of these types are easy to design and cascade, allowing the
construction of more complex structures, as opposed to other reported types [3].
Some designs are fairly complicated and depend on polarization and/or more
complex fabrication processes. Every implementation is sure to have pros and
cons.
One of the main obstacles in the evolution to efficient all-optical computing is the
lack of good nonlinear optical materials [1]. A significant amount of optical power
is needed to induce effective phase mismatches, making practical solutions
difficult. More sensitive materials would lower these power requirements.
Several assumptions were made in these simulations. The phenomenon of self-
focusing was not accounted for, mainly due to the fact that coupled-mode theory is
not accurate under such circumstances [5]. The changes in the refractive index
distribution induced by the control beam were assumed to be constant and uniform,
which may not be the case. Nonlinear BPM software [6] would give more accurate
results for more specific simulation parameters.
It should be possible to run a BPM simulation for one propagation step, perform
Kerr calculations on the resulting field, redefine the refractive index distribution,
and repeat. This would require a large amount of processing power, a project that
would be well suited for an all-optical computer.
References

[1] Hossin Abdeldayem, Donald O. Frazier, Mark S. Paley, and William K.


Witherow, Recent Advances in Photonic Devices for Optical Computing
[2] S. M. Jensen, IEEE J. Quantum Electron. QE-18, 1580
(1982)
[3] Saleh and Teich, Fundamentals of Photonics. (c) 1997

[4] LIGHTS Online Optical Simulation Software

(c) 1997-2007 Andrew Sarangan

[5] D. R. Heatley, E. M. Wright, J. Ehrlich, and G. I. Stegeman, Nonlinear


directional coupler with a diffusive Kerr-type nonlinearity. May 1988 / Vol.
13, No. 5 / OPTICS LETTERS

[6] Takeshi Fujisawa and Masanori Koshiba, Full-Vector Finite-Element Beam


Propagation Method for Three-Dimensional Nonlinear Optical Waveguides.
JOURNAL OF LIGHTWAVE TECHNOLOGY, VOL. 20, NO. 10,
OCTOBER 2002