Over the last decade advances and innovations from Silicon Photonics technology were observed in the telecommunications and computing industries. This technology which employs Silicon as an optical medium, relies on current CMOS micro-electronics fabrication processes to enable medium scale integration of many nano-photonic devices to produce photonic integrated circuitry.
However, other fields of research such as optical sensor processing can benefit from silicon photonics technology, specially in sensors where the physical measurement is wavelength encoded.
In this research work, we present a design and application of a thermally tuned silicon photonic device as an optical sensor interrogator.
The main device is a micro-ring resonator filter of 10 $\mu m$ of diameter. A photonic design toolkit was developed based on open source software from the research community. With those tools it was possible to estimate the resonance and spectral characteristics of the filter. From the obtained design parameters, a 7.8 x 3.8 mm optical chip was fabricated using standard micro-photonics techniques. In order to tune a ring resonance, Nichrome micro-heaters were fabricated on top of the device. Some fabricated devices were systematically characterized and their tuning response were determined. From measurements, a ring resonator with a free-spectral-range of 18.4 nm and with a bandwidth of 0.14 nm was obtained. Using just 5 mA it was possible to tune the device resonance up to 3 nm.
In order to apply our device as a sensor interrogator in this research, a model of wavelength estimation using time interval between peaks measurement technique was developed and simulations were carried out to assess its performance. To test the technique, an experiment using a Fiber Bragg grating optical sensor was set, and estimations of the wavelength shift of this sensor due to axial strains yield an error within 22 pm compared to measurements from spectrum analyzer. Results from this study implies that signals from FBG sensors can be processed with good accuracy using a micro-ring device with the advantage of ts compact size, scalability and versatility. Additionally, the system also has additional applications such as processing optical wavelength shifts from integrated photonic sensors and to be able to track resonances from laser sources.