All-optical switches are fundamental building blocks for future, high-speed optical networks that utilize optical time division multiplexing (OTDM) techniques to achieve single channel data rates exceeding 100 Gb/s. Interferometric optical switches using semiconductor optical amplifier (SOA) nonlinearities perform efficient optical switching with < 500 fj of control energy and are approaching optical sampling bandwidths of nearly 1 THz. In this paper, we review work underway at Princeton University to characterize and demonstrate these optical switches as processing elements in practical networks and systems. Three interferometric optical switch geometries are presented and characterized. We discuss limitations on the minimum temporal width of the switching window and prospects for integrating the devices. Using these optical switches as demultiplexers, we demonstrate two 100-Gb/s testbeds for photonic packet switching. In addition to the optical networking applications, we have explored simultaneous wavelength conversion and pulse width management. We have also designed high bandwidth sampling systems using SOA-based optical switches as analog optical sampling gates capable of analyzing optical wave forms with bandwidths exceeding 100 GHz. We believe these devices represent a versatile approach to all-optical processing as a variety of applications can be performed without significantly changing the device architecture.
- optical sampling
- photonic networks
- optical time division multiplexing
- optical switching