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Interaction between light and highly confined hypersound

in a silicon photonic nanowire

Raphael Van Laer, Bart Kuyken, Dries Van Thourhout and Roel Baets
Photonics Research Group, Ghent Universityimec, Belgium
Center for Nano- and Biophotonics, Ghent University, Belgium

In the past decade, there has been a surge in theoretical prediction of enormously enhanced photon-
research at the boundary between photonics and phonon coupling4,2628 in silicon nanowires. In such
phononics1 . Most efforts centered on coupling waveguides, boundary effects can no longer be neglected.
light to motion in a high-quality optical cavity2 , Thus both electrostriction and radiation pressure create
typically geared towards observing the quantum phonons. Equivalently, the new theory takes into ac-
state of a mechanical oscillator3 . It was recently count not only bulk permittivity changes but also the
arXiv:1407.4977v1 [physics.optics] 18 Jul 2014

predicted that the strength of the light-sound in- shifting material boundaries. The strong photon con-
teraction would increase drastically in nanoscale finement offered by these waveguides boosts both types
silicon photonic wires4 . Here we demonstrate, for of optical forces. However, destructive interference be-
the first time, such a giant overlap between near- tween the two contributions may still completely can-
infrared light and gigahertz sound co-localized in cel the photon-phonon coupling. The giant light-sound
a small-core silicon wire. The wire is supported overlap arises exclusively when both bulk and boundary
by a tiny pillar to block the path for external forces align with the phonon field4,26 .
phonon leakage, trapping 10 GHz phonons in an Unfortunately, typical silicon-on-insulator wires pro-
area below 0.1 m2 . Since our geometry can be vide only weak phonon confinement because there is little
coiled up to form a ring cavity, it paves the way elastic mismatch between the silicon core and the silicon
for complete fusion between the worlds of cavity dioxide substrate. The large coupling strength was thus
optomechanics and Brillouin scattering. The re- thought to be only accessible in silicon wires that are
sult bodes well for the realization of low-footprint fully suspended in air4,2628 . This requirement severely
optically-pumped lasers/sasers5 and delay lines6 compromises the ability to create centimeter-scale inter-
on a densely integrated silicon chip. action lengths, which are paramount to reduce the re-
The diffraction of light by sound was first studied by quired pump power for SBS.
Leon Brillouin in the early 1920s. Therefore such in- In this work, we take the middle ground between these
elastic scattering has long been called Brillouin scatter- conflicting requirements. By partially releasing a silicon
ing 7 . On the quantum level, the process annihilates wire from its substrate, we drastically improve phonon
pump photons while creating acoustic phonons and red- confinement (fig.1a-c). There is still some phonon leak-
shifted Stokes photons. The effect is known as stimulated age through the pillar, but it is sufficiently low to tap
Brillouin scattering (SBS) when the sound is generated the large overlap between the optical forces and the hy-
by a strong modulated light field. This sets the stage for a personic mode (fig.1d). Moreover, it is straightforward to
self-sustaining feedback loop: the beat note between two increase the interaction length in our design. Building on
optical waves (called the pump and the Stokes) generates this compromise, we demonstrate an order-of-magnitude
sound that reinforces the initial beat note. performance leap in the photon-phonon coupling.
In a seminal experimental study8 , Brillouin scatter- The observed mechanical mode strongly interacts with
ing was viewed as a source of intense coherent sound. the fundamental quasi-TE optical mode (fig.1e). The
Later, the effect became better known as a noise source in main contribution to the coupling stems from the good
quantum optics9 and for applications such as spectrally overlap between the horizontal optical forces and dis-
pure lasing1012 , microwave signal processing13,14 , slow placement profile. In particular, the bulk electrostric-
light15 , information storage6 and phononic band struc- tive forces fes and the boundary radiation pressure frp
ture mapping16 . both point in the same direction as the displacement field
Traditionally520 , the photon-phonon interaction was u (fig.1d). Therefore they interfere constructively, lead-
mediated by the material nonlinearity. Electrostriction ing to a total overlap hf , ui = hfes , ui + hfrp , ui up to
drove the phonon creation, and phonon-induced permit- twice as large as each individual component. Since the
tivity changes lead to photon scattering. This conven- SBS gain GSBS (m ) at the phonon resonance frequency
tional image of SBS as a bulk effect, without reference m scales as |hf , ui|2 , the total scattering from pump to
to geometry, breaks down in nanoscale waveguides. The Stokes photons may be up to four times as efficient as by
impressive progress in engineering radiation pressure in electrostriction or radiation pressure individually.
micro- and nanoscale systems2125 recently inspired the This view of force interference4,26 was confirmed for the
first time in a hybrid silicon nitride/silicon waveguide29 .
In that case, the photons were confined to the silicon core
but the phonons mostly to the silicon nitride membrane. In our work, both the photons and the phonons are con-

a b d 1 1
Si wire phonons



c e

230 nm
SiO2 450 nm
15 nm
y |E|2

Si SiO2 0 1

FIG. 1. A silicon wire on a pillar as an acoustic phonon cavity. a, Top view of the silicon wire. Light propagates along
the wire. It confines photons owing to the high optical contrast with the silicon dioxide substrate and the air. b, Unlike the
photons, the phonons are trapped transversally. The leakage of phonons through the pillar determines their lifetime 5 ns.
c, A scanning electron micrograph of the 450 230 nm cross-section (see Methods). We can fabricate pillars as narrow as 15 nm
reliably. d, The horizontal component of the observed hypersonic mode u (red: , blue: +) aligns with the bulk electrostrictive
(black arrows) and the boundary radiation pressure forces (grey arrows). e, Electric field norm of the quasi-TE optical mode.

fined to the same silicon core. The elastic mode (fig.1d) nonlinearity parameter, Pp the input pump power and
can be understood as the fundamental mode of a Fabry- Leff = 1exp(L) the effective interaction length. The
Perot cavity for hypersonic waves (fig.1b), formed by the effective length is limited to 1 = 1.7 cm in our wires.
silicon-air boundaries. Therefore, its frequency can be To extract the Brillouin nonlinearity SBS , we sweep the
estimated as 2m = 2wv
= 9.4 GHz with v = 8433 m/s the pump power (fig.3a). Above powers of about 25 mW,
longitudinal speed of sound in silicon and w = 450 nm nonlinear absorption saturates the on/off gain. Then
the waveguide width. free carriers, created by two-photon absorption (TPA),
To create the pillar structure, we start from a silicon- result in a power-dependent optical loss (Pp ). However,
on-insulator wire fabricated by deep UV lithography30
we extract 2SBS = 3218 W1 m1 below this thresh-
through the multi-project-wafer service ePIXfab (www.
old. A fit to the Lorentzian resonance yields a mechan- Next, we perform an additional oxide etch
ical quality factor of Qm = m = 306 for the same
with diluted hydrofluoric acid. By carefully controlling
2.7 mm-long waveguide. Therefore the phonon lifetime
the etching speed, a narrow pillar is left underneath the
is = 1m = 5.3 ns. Besides, we note that the largest
wire (fig.1a-c). Through this simple fabrication method,
we obtain wires up to 4 cm long. To retain compactness, on/off gain of 0.6 dB below the TPA-threshold falls nar-
wires longer than 3 mm are coiled up into a low-footprint rowly short of the linear loss L = 0.7 dB. Thus the wire
spiral. Despite the additional etch, the wires still exhibit is close to net optical amplification, which is necessary
optical propagation losses as low as 2.6 dB/cm. to make a Brillouin laser. The peak gain reaches 4.4 dB
In our experiments (fig.2), we investigate straight and in the longest 4 cm-wires (fig.2a), improving by a factor
spiral waveguides with lengths L ranging from 1.4 mm 11 on previous results in silicon29 . Finally, we observe an
to 4 cm. We couple 1550 nm TE-light to the waveg- identical depletion profile on an anti-Stokes wave (fig.2a).
uides through focusing grating couplers31 and perform Second, we measure the strength of the cross-phase
both gain (fig.2a-b) and cross-phase modulation (fig.2c- modulation (XPM) imprinted on a weak probe by a
d) experiments. The resonances (fig.2a and c) observed strong intensity-modulated pump (fig.2c-d). The ex-
in these experiments allow for a characterization of the periment yields a distinct asymmetric Fano signature
photon-phonon coupling in two independent ways. at 2m = 9.2 GHz caused by interference between the
First, we monitor the power in a Stokes wave as a resonant Brillouin and the non-resonant Kerr response
function of frequency spacing with a strong pump wave (see supplementary information B). The lineshape follows
(fig.2a-b). We observe a Lorentzian gain profile at 2m = | XPM
() 2
| , with K the Kerr nonlinearity parameter and
9.2 GHz, as expected in the low-cascading regime (see
supplementary information A). The Stokes photons ex- XPM () = 2K + SBS L()
perience exponential amplification as long as the pump 1 m
remains undepleted. Exactly on resonance, the on/off L() = r =
2r + i m
gain is given by 2SBS Pp Leff with SBS the Brillouin

9.15 9.25
Stokes power (a.u.)
3 50% FPC 50% 25%

4.4 dB 1550 nm
0.35 10 GHz



-4.4 dB
2 LT
40 MHz IM
1 Remove P 1%
Create Stokes PD
Leff = 1.5 cm Pp = 35 mW and AS
Remove P 99%
9.15 9.2 9.25 PD
a Frequency spacing (GHz) b FBG

Experiment Fit
Sideband power (a.u.)

3 IM
FPC 50% 25%

1537 nm


10 GHz 1550 nm
Leff = 1.2 cm
Phase detection 99%
8.8 9.2 9.6 ESA
c Frequency spacing (GHz) d FBG
Remove pump

FIG. 2. Experimental characterization of the photon-phonon coupling. a, A typical Lorentzian gain profile on Stokes
photons and (inset) a depletion profile on anti-Stokes photons. b, The fiber-based set-up used to monitor the forward Stokes
scattering. A tunable laser is amplified in one arm by an erbium-doped fiber amplifier (EDFA) to serve as a pump. In the
other arm, the laser light is intensity modulated (IM) to generate a Stokes and anti-Stokes sideband. Next, a fiber Bragg
grating (FBG) rejects all but the Stokes line (see Methods). The pump and Stokes are coupled to the chip through curved
grating couplers. Finally, the power in the Stokes and pump is monitored separately. With minor modifications, this set-up
can be reconfigured to observe the anti-Stokes loss or backward scattering. The latter is weak in our wires (see supplementary
information C), so here we focus on the forward scattering. c, A typical Fano signature obtained from the XPM-experiment.
d, A pump is intensity modulated, amplified, combined with a probe wave and sent to the chip. At the output, the pump
is removed. The phase modulation on the probe wave is transducted to intensity modulation by filtering out the anti-Stokes
sideband. Finally, we use an electrical spectrum analyzer (ESA) to observe the imprinted tone.

From this resonance we isolate the ratio SBS /K = 2.5 find that the waveguide width alone pins down the res-
and Qm = 249. The Kerr parameter K of similar silicon onance frequency, with other geometrical parameters in-
wires has been studied extensively, with values reported ducing minor shifts. For a 450 nm-wide waveguide, the
at K = 566 W1 m1 for our cross-section32 . Because frequency sensitivity to width changes is 19.2 MHz/nm
of the pillar etch, the light is more confined to the high- (fig.3b). In contrast, the calculated sensitivity to height
index silicon core. We simulate that this results in a slight changes is only 2.3 MHz/nm. This is consistent with the
increase of the Kerr effect by 8% to K = 611 W1 m1 . intuitive Fabry-Perot picture, in which the height does
Thus we have 2SBS = 3055 W1 m1 , within 5% of the not appear at all.
value obtained from the gain experiments. The large sensitivity to width variations implies that
We stress that both the resonance frequency, quality a 2 nm width change shifts the resonance by more than
factor and coupling strength are in excellent agreement a linewidth. Therefore inhomogeneous broadening may
with the models. For the frequency, we perform the affect both the lineshape and -width in the longer wires,
XPM-experiment for waveguide widths from 350 nm to similar to Doppler-broadening in gain media. Surpris-
500 nm (fig.3b). Both a simple Fabry-Perot ( 2m = 2w v
) ingly, we achieve quality factors above 250 even in the
and a sophisticated finite-element model match the ob- longest 4 cm-wires (fig.4a). This suggests that there is, if
served resonances. The finite-element model takes into at all, only limited length-dependent line broadening.
account the exact geometry of the wires as obtained from By sweeping the pillar width in a short 450 nm-wide
a scanning electron micrograph (fig.1c). This includes waveguide, we establish leakage through the pillar as the
the waveguide height, pillar size, sidewall angle and the dominant phononic loss mechanism (fig.4b). The pillar
h110i crystal orientation of our wires (see Methods). We acts as a channel for elastic waves that propagate down

Experiment Fit
0.9 Finite-element

Frequency (GHz)
On/off gain (dB)
Saturation 11 Fabry-Perot
0.6 10

Leff = 2.5 mm

20 40 60 350 400 450 500

a On-chip pump power Pp (mW) b Waveguide width (nm)

FIG. 3. Analysis of the Brillouin gain and phonon frequency. a, Scaling of the on/off Brillouin gain with input pump
power. Above a power threshold of 25 mW, the on/off gain saturates because of nonlinear absorption. We perform a fit to
obtain the Brillouin nonlinearity below that threshold. b, The phonon frequency for different waveguide widths. Both a simple
Fabry-Perot and a rigorous finite-element model agree with the data.

Experiment 2SBS
Finite-element Qm
Quality factor Qm (-)

Quality factor Qm (-)


Coupling (W1 m1 )
Gain experiment
400 400 20 Finite-element
XPM experiment
300 300 15

200 200 10
100 peak splitting 100 5 bound
w = 450 nm ary
1 2 3 4 5 10 15 20 25 350 400 450 500
a Wire length L (cm) b Pillar relative to waveguide (%) c Waveguide width (nm)

FIG. 4. Study of the mechanical quality factor and the intrinsic photon-phonon coupling. a, The quality factor
stays above 250 even in 4 cm-long spirals, showing no evidence of length-dependent line broadening. There is peak splitting (by
50 MHz) in the 1 cm spiral. Neither the longer spirals nor the straight wires exhibit such splitting. b, A finite-element model
of phonon leakage through the pillar accurately predicts the observed quality factors. c, The non-resonant nonlinearity 2QSBSm
is a direct measure of the intrinsic photon-phonon overlap. The electrostriction (black) and radiation pressure (green) interfere
constructively, bringing about the total overlap (red). As the width increases, the boundary contribution vanishes rapidly.

into the substrate. We rigorously model this mechanism neglecting the small sidewall angle. Nonetheless, the
by adding an artificial absorbing layer at the boundary simulations match the experimentally deduced coupling
of the simulation domain (see Methods). As predicted strength. Neither electrostriction nor radiation pressure
by such a model, the observed quality factors diminish separately suffice to explain the experimental values of
2SBS 1 1
rapidly with increasing pillar size. The pillar should be Qm 12 W m . These values are an order of mag-
seen as a moving acoustic membrane33 , not as a fixed nitude larger than the state of the art, including on-chip
point. Therefore it affects neither the phononic field pro- chalcogenide20 and silicon nitride/silicon waveguides29 .
file nor its associated stiffness keff considerably. In conclusion, we have demonstrated efficient inter-
Finally, we confirm that the photon-phonon cou- action between near-infrared light and hypersound in a
pling is determined by a combination of bulk (elec- small-core silicon wire. The interaction is well described
trostriction) and boundary (radiation pressure) effects by the models, including phonon frequency, lifetime and
(fig.4c). The resonant Brillouin gain coefficient is given coupling strength. There is ample scope for improving
by GSBS (m ) = 2SBS = 0 Qm |hf , ui|2 /(2keff ), so the on these results. Currently limited by the pillar, the
non-resonant part 2QSBSm
is proportional to the intrin- phonon lifetime may be increased by exciting asymmetric
sic photon-phonon coupling4,26 . In our finite-element phononic modes34 which are predicted to exhibit sim-
simulations of hf , ui and keff , we take into account ilar coupling strengths26 . Then the pillar would barely
the mechanical anisotropy of silicon but not the pillar. vibrate, resulting in a large leakage reduction. The qual-
We also approximate the cross-section as rectangular, ity factor may also be improved by keeping the pillar

but fully etching the wire in some regions. Alternatively, ported to MATLAB to calculate the coupling. Since our wires
the intrinsic photon-phonon overlap could be increased are aligned along a h110i axis, we rotated both the elasticity
by confining light to a narrow slot28 . Such ideas may (c11 , c12 , c44 ) = (166, 64, 79) GPa and the photoelasticity ma-
enhance the Brillouin nonlinearity to a level sufficient for trix (p11 , p12 , p44 ) = (0.09, 0.017, 0.051) by /4. In the
low-threshold lasing35,36 , cascading37 or high-bandwidth simulations of the phonon leakage, we add an artificial silica
matching layer with Youngs modulus i E and density i.
fully non-resonant Brillouin scattering38 .
The layer absorbs incoming elastic waves without reflection.
In a frequency-domain simulation, the quality factor can be
Methods. The cross-section (fig.1c) was milled by a fo- <m
found from Qm = 2= . We optimize for minimal Qm . A
cused ion beam. The platina around the silicon core is de- m
typical value is = 2 for a 420 nm-thick matching layer.
posited for better visualization. We use the following abbre-
viations (fig.2): erbium-doped fiber amplifier (EDFA), band- Acknowledgement. R.V.L. acknowledges the Agency for
pass filter (BPF), fiber polarization controller (FPC), in- Innovation by Science and Technology in Flanders (IWT)
tensity modulator (IM), electrical spectrum analyzer (ESA), for a PhD grant. This work was partially funded under
light trap (LT), fiber Bragg grating (FBG) and photodetec- the FP7-ERC-InSpectra programme and the ITN-network
tor (PD). The FBGs were a crucial part of our set-up. Pro- cQOM. R.V.L. thanks T. Van Vaerenbergh for reading the
duced by TeraXion Inc., these filters were custom-designed to manuscript and L. Van Landschoot for taking SEM-pictures.
have a flat response within the passband and drop to 30 dB
within 2.5 GHz. We use the steep flank for filtering. Their Author contributions. R.V.L. performed the fabrica-
bandwidth is 60 GHz. In addition, we employ a pair of per- tion, experiments, analysis and wrote the paper. B.K. gave
fectly aligned FBGs for the gain experiment (fig.2b). On the experimental and conceptual advice. D.V.T. and R.B. super-
theoretical side, we use the finite-element solver COMSOL vised the work. All authors discussed the results and provided
to obtain the photonic and phononic modes. They were ex- feedback on the manuscript.

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sensitivity of the effective index with respect to motion.
This factor contains contributions from both the moving
boundary (radiation pressure) and the bulk (electrostric-
A. Coupled-mode description of the gain
tion). In this simple model, we characterize the mechan-
ical mode as a harmonic oscillator in each cross-section
In this section we derive a simple model that captures
the essential dynamics of forward Brillouin scattering in F (z, t)
q(z, t) + m q(z, t) + 2m q(z, t) =
the presence of a background Kerr effect. Our analy- meff

with 2m the Brillouin linewidth, 2m = m eff
the angular yields
frequency, meff the effective mass of the mechanical mode !
per unit length and F (z, t) the total force acting on that dneff X dA dAn
mode per unit length. Since this equation does not ex- An n1 + A
dz n
dz dz n1
plicitly depend on z, q(z, t) directly inherits its position- X  
dependency from F (z, t). Note that any propagation of neff |An |2 |An1 |2
phonons along the waveguide is neglected in this step. n
Each cross-section oscillates independently, reminiscent
+ neff An An2 An+1 An1
of the molecular vibration in Raman scattering7,37 .
From power-conservation40 , the optical force F (z, t) =0
per unit length can be related to n q as

Consequently, equation (1) can be solved either directly

by using properties of the Bessel functions or indirectly

1 neff
F (z, t) = P (z, t) by noting that neff (z) = neff (0) such that the nonlin-
c q qavg
ear interaction is equivalent to phase-modulation. Specif-
The power P (z, t) = 2A2 (z, t) contains frequencies
n n up to the total number of lines. However, we as- 1X
sume that only the component at excites the mechani- A(z, t) = An (z) exp (i(n t kn z)) + c.c.
2 n
cal motion. So we take F (z, t) = 12 F exp (i(t Kz)) +
c.c. with F = 1c n 1
q P and K = k0 k1 = vg . The
= exp (ik0 zn(z, t))
complex amplitude of the power P is given by X
An (0) exp (i(n t kn z)) + c.c. (2)
P = 2 An An1 n

n Moreover, we have
We normalized the amplitudes An such that the power n(z, t) = |neff (0)| sin (t Kz + 0 ) (3)
of wave n is |An |2 . Thus the steady-state response
of the harmonic oscillator is q = Qm kFeff L() with the 2|()| X
An (0)An1 (0) sin (t Kz + 0 )


k0 n

Lorentzian function L() = 2r +i , the relative detun-

ing r = m
and the quality factor Qm = m . There-
with 0 = neff (0) exp (i 2 ) . As previously noted in

fore we can write the nonlinear index change in terms of
the nonlinear Kerr and Brillouin parameters K and SBS . the context of photonic crystal fibres37 , this is equiva-
Indeed, we have lent to phase-modulation with a depth determined by
the strength of the input fields, the interaction length
neff = neff,Kerr + neff,Brillouin and the nonlinear parameter |()|. The amplitudes of
K SBS the individual components
P can finally be found by in-
= P + P L() serting exp (i sin ) = n Jn () exp (in) with Jn the
k0 k0
nth-order Bessel function of the first kind. To arrive
P at this phase-modulation picture, we assumed that all
= ()
k0 index changes originate from the beating at frequency
. This is correct for the mechanical effect since it is
where we defined the total nonlinearity parameter weak off resonance. However, the Kerr response is non-
() = K + SBS L(), using K k0 Aneff
and SBS resonant at telecom wavelengths. Thus its strength is the
Qm 1 neff
0 keff c q . We note that this formula for the same at 0 + n for all n. We include the n (n 6= 1)
Kerr-mediated coupling in the next paragraph, keeping
Brillouin nonlinearity is identical to the rigorous4,26,28 in mind that equations (2)-(3) are only entirely correct
SBS = 0 Qm |hf , ui|2 /(4keff ) if we identify 1c | n
q |
when K = 0.
|hf ,ui|
2 . Hence the evolution of the amplitudes is To see how the modulation picture (2)-(3) relates to
the traditional view of SBS as a pure gain process, we
dAn k0   simplify equation (1) to the case of an undepleted pump,
= i neff An1 + neff An+1 (1) a Stokes and an anti-Stokes. Neglecting higher-order cas-
dz 2
P 2() X cading, this yields
neff = () = An An1
k0 k0 n dAs  
= i () |Ap |2 As + A2p Aas (4)
These equations can be solved analytically since neff
turns out to be a constant of motion. Indeed, derivation = i() |Ap |2 Aas + A2p As (5)

In case Aas (0) = 0, the initial evolution of the Stokes not alter the conclusion that these equations yield Bril-
power is louin gain when Aas (0) = 0. However, such added terms
do invalidate the phase-modulation solution (2)-(3).
dPs Back to that solution (2)-(3), at first sight we ex-
= 2={()}Pp Ps
dz pect a Fano-like resonance for the Stokes power because
SBS the modulation depth depends on |()| and not on
Since ={()} = 4 2 +1 , we recover a Lorentzian Bril-
r ={()}. However, the input phase 0 also contains
louin gain profile in this approximation: phase information on (). We analytically check that
dPs the phase-modulation picture is equivalent to a pure gain
= GSBS ()Ps (6) process in the low-cascading regime. Combining equa-
2SBS Pp tions (2) and (3) with only an initial pump and Stokes
GSBS () = wave, we find
42r + 1
As (z) = As (0) J1 () Ap (0) exp (i(0 + ))
Similarly, the anti-Stokes experiences a Lorentzian loss
profile if As (0) = 0. Thus the Kerr effect has no impact p
with = 2|()| Ps (0)Pp z the unitless cascading pa-
on the initial evolution of the Stokes wave. Therefore,
rameter. The power of the Stokes wave then becomes
forward SBS is a pure gain process as long as the anti-
Stokes build-up is negligible. By numerically integrating 2
equations (4) and (5), including linear losses, we confirm Ps (z) = Ps (0) (1 2={()}Pp z) + Pp
that this is the case in our experiments. The n (n 6= 1)
Kerr-mediated coupling does not change this conlusion. Here we approximated the Bessel function as J1 () 2 ,
We can see this as follows. In the Lorentz-model for which is valid in the low- regime. The last term, con-
the permittivity, the Kerr response can be treated as a taining 2 , gives rise to a Fano-resonance but is smaller
second-order nonlinear spring7 than the other terms in this regime. Taking the derivative
and letting z 0, we indeed recover the gain equation
e (6). In our experiments we reach values of 0.4 in the
x + e x + 2e (x)x = A
me longest waveguides and at maximum pump power. To
conclude, we can safely neglect higher-order cascading
with x the displacement of the electron cloud, me the and treat forward SBS as a pure gain process driven ex-
electron mass, 2e (x) = km
e (x)
and ke (x) = ke (0) + xk2e x2 clusively by the Brillouin nonlinearity. In the presence of
the nonlinear spring constant. Since n  e , the oscil- linear optical losses, the modified evolution of the Stokes
lator responds instantaneously to the Lorentz-force eA: wave is
e = (GSBS () exp (z) ) Ps
2e (x)x = A dz
me 2SBS Pp
GSBS () =
Thus the linear solution is xL (z, t) = ke A(z, t). In the 42r + 1
e (0)
first Born approximation, the nonlinear displacement is with the linear optical loss and Pp the input pump
power. The analytical solution of this equation is
1 2 ke 3
xNL = x Ps (L) =Ps (0) exp (GSBS ()Leff L)
ke (0) x2 L

And the nonlinear polarization is P NL = 0 NL A = with Leff = 1exp(L) the effective interaction length.
N exNL with N the atomic number density. This im- In the case of nonlinear losses (Pp ) the equations can
plies that the nonlinear polarization is proportional to be integrated numerically.
A3 (z, t). Unlike in the Brillouin case, the Lorentz oscilla-
tor does not filter out 0, 2, 3, etc. terms. Selecting
the right components of P NL , we find that equations (4) B. Coupled-mode description of the cross-phase
modulation experiments
and (5) are modified to

dAs   In the cross-phase modulation (XPM) experiments, we

= i () |Ap |2 As + A2p Aas iK |Ap |2 As study the phase modulation imprinted on a probe wave
by a strong intensity-modulated pump. The pump and
= i() |Ap |2 Aas + A2p As iK |Ap |2 Aas its sidebands are located at frequencies 0 , 1 = 0 +
dz and 1 = 0 . The probe has frequency pr .
for a strong, undepleted pump. The added terms on the The four-wave mixing interaction between these waves
right generate a constant phase shift and do, therefore, imprints sidebands pr on the probe. We monitor

50% FPC 50%
1550 nm 10 GHz FBG



Remove P PD
Create Stokes and AS

a b 1%
a PD

FIG. 5. Characterization of the backward Brillouin scattering. a, Propagating version of the Fabry-Perot phononic
mode (see fig.1d for comparison). b, Experimental set-up used to observe the backward SBS gain. This time the Stokes and
pump wave counterpropagate through the chip, exciting phonons that satisfy K = 2k0 .

the power Pimprint in the imprint = pr + sideband at n Jn () exp (in) to each of the beat notes. This re-
the end of the waveguide as a function of . sults in
If there were only Brillouin coupling between the
waves, the effective index would be modulated exclu- A(z, t) = Jk ( )Jl (0 )Jm (1 )
sively at frequency . However, the Kerr effect re- 2
sponds equally well to the beat notes 0 = 0 pr exp (i(k + l0 + m1 )
and 1 = 1 pr . So there are four pathways to X
imprint : An (0) exp (i(n t kn z)) + c.c. (8)
imprint = pr + (1 0 )
Only three terms in the Bessel expansion influence
imprint = pr + (0 1 ) Pimprint when is small. In particular, for (klm) =
imprint = 1 0 (100), (010) and (001) the frequencies pr , 1 and 0
imprint = 0 1 are shifted to imprint respectively. Working out equation
(8) for these terms, we obtain
Both the Kerr and the Brillouin effect take the first two,
but only the Kerr effect takes the latter two pathways.
Aimprint (z) = exp (i )Apr + 0 exp (i0 )A1
Therefore the Kerr effect manifests itself with double 2 2
strength in these experiments. Building on the formalism 1
+ exp (i1 )A0
of supplementary section A, we calculate the imprinted 2
sideband power Pimprint . The index modulation is
for the amplitude Aimprint (z) of the imprinted tone. Here
n(z, t) = |neff, | sin (t Kz + ) (7) we used J1 () = 2 for small . Since  the beat note
+ |neff,0 | sin (0 t (k0 kpr ) z + 0 ) amplitudes are P = 2 A1 A0 + A0 A1 , P0 = 2A0 Apr
+ |neff,1 | sin (1 t (k1 kpr ) z + 1 ) and P1 = 2A1 Apr , we finally obtain
with the following definitions z2
Pimprint (z) = |XPM ()|2 |P |2 Ppr
P 4
neff, = {K + SBS L()}
k0 with XPM () = 2K + SBS L(). Therefore we use the
P0 Fano lineshape | XPM
() 2
| as a fitting function for the
neff,0 = K
k0 normalized probe sideband power.
neff,1 = K
k0 C. Measurement of backward scattering
As before, we denote the angles = neff exp (i 2 ) .

We also define a modulation depth = k0 z|neff | for So far we focused on forward SBS, in which the ex-
each beat note. Next, we insert equation (7) in equa- cited phonons have a very short wavevector K = vg be-
tion (2) and apply the Bessel expansion exp (i sin ) = cause the pump and Stokes have nearly equal wavevec-
tors. However, the phononic mode demonstrated in this

Experiment Fit

Probe transmission (-)

1 FPC 50% 25%

1537 nm



1550 nm
0.9 Pump
0.1 ps
0.8 BPF BPF 99%
0 5 10 15 Scope
a Time (ns) b EDFA Remove pump

FIG. 6. Measurement of the free-carrier lifetime. a, Oscilloscope trace of the probe power. The pump pulse arrives at
t = 1 ns. We start the fit a nanosecond later to avoid fitting to photodiode ringing artifacts. b, Pump-probe set-up used to
obtain the trace. The band-pass filter (BPF) has more than 50 dB extinction at 1550 nm.

work (fig.1d) can also be operated at another point in its wires. From the observations
dispersion diagram. When the Stokes and pump coun-
terpropagate through the wire, they generate the class that our finite-element and coupled-mode modeling
of phonons that obey K = 2k0 . The propagating ver- of the Brillouin effect matches the experiments
sion (fig.5a) of the Fabry-Perot mechanical mode (fig.1d) and that the off-resonance background is flat in the
may then induce gain as well. We reconfigured our gain XPM experiment
experiment (fig.5b) to study such modes. we have evidence that the free-carriers are not noticeably
We also find a Lorentzian gain profile (fig.2a), but this influencing our results below the threshold. Nevertheless,
time at 13.7 GHz. A fit yields Qm = 971. This propagat- we performed a cross-FCA experiment (fig.6b) to exclude
ing phononic mode exhibits a strongly reduced photon- the possibility of a significant drop in free-carrier lifetime
phonon coupling. From the experiment, we find that c caused by the underetch of our wires.
Qm = 0.37 W1 m1 : a factor 30 lower than in the The pump was a 100 fs-pulse with a repitition rate
forward case. We attribute this reduction to destruc- of 501ns and peak power of 1 kW. When a pump pulse
tive interference between electrostriction and radiation arrives, it creates many free-carriers by TPA. The free-
pressure, as predicted before26 for fully suspended wires. carriers recombine before the next pump pulse arrives.
Because of this low overlap, we observe the backward Their presence is read out by monitoring the power of a
resonance only in the long spirals. c.w. probe wave on a high-speed oscilloscope. Thus the
From our finite-element models, we expect this prop- transmission T of the probe is
agating mode (fig.5a) at 14.4 GHz with a coupling of   
2SBS 1 1 t
Qm = 0.41 W m . Therefore we suspect that this is T = exp (FCA (t)) = exp FCA (t0 ) exp
indeed the observed mode. Further investigations should c
resolve this issue, as the simulations predict that there
are propagating modes with better coupling at higher where we normalized the transmission to the case without
frequencies. These frequencies were not accessible in our FCA. Here we exploited the relation FCA (t) N (t)
current set-up. with N (t) the free-carrier concentration.
The experiments yield typical values of c = 6.2 ns
before the etch and c = 5.7 ns after the etch in iden-
tical waveguides. Hence there is, if at all, only a mi-
D. Measurement of the free-carrier lifetime nor decrease of c due to the underetch. The associated
bandwidth of f3 dB = 2 c
= 28 MHz suggests a negli-
Free electrons and holes, created by two-photon ab- gible FCI-effect at 10 GHz. As a precaution, we work
sorption (TPA) in our experiments, induce significant when possible in the longer wires with low power
free-carrier absorption (FCA) and free-carrier index (below 15 mW on-chip) in the XPM-experiments. The
changes (FCI) above a certain power threshold. As re- free-carrier nonlinearity FCI can, in principle, always be
flected in the saturation of the SBS gain (fig.3a), this reduced below K because FCI Ppump while K does
threshold is about 25 mW in our 450 230 nm silicon not depend on Ppump .

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