Modeling and characterization of a vernier latching MEMS variable optical attenuator

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We report on the modeling and testing of a Vernier latched MEMS variable optical attenuator (VOA) which uses chevron electrothermal microactuators to control fiber-to-fiber optical power coupling. The use of microlatches has the advantage of holding the mechanical position of the fiber, and therefore the level of attenuation, with no electrical energy supplied except only to change the attenuation. Results of analytical electro-thermo-mechanical models of the device are obtained and compared with experimental test results, showing a good agreement. A step resolution of 0.5 μm for this multi-state latched device is achieved using a Vernier latch approach. This incremental step size is smaller than previously reported latched microactuators. The VOA demonstrated an attenuation range of over 47 dB and an insertion loss of 1 dB. The wavelength dependent loss across the optical communications C-band is 1.4 dB at 40 dB attenuation and the 10-90% transition time of the unlatched VOA is measured to be 1.7 ms.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1229-1241
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Microelectromechanical Systems
Issue number5
Early online date17 Jun 2013
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2013


  • chevron microactuators
  • variable optical attenuator
  • fiber-to-fiber coupling
  • vernier-latch
  • electro-thermal actuators
  • MEMS


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