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MEMS Optical Switch: Advantages and Applications

December 16,2021

MEMS (Micro-Electro-Mechanical System) is a micro device or system integrating micro-machinery, micro-actuator, signal processing and control circuits, etc. Micro-mechanical structures are prepared by photo-lithography, ion beam etching, chemical etching, wafer bonding, etc., while electrodes are prepared on the mechanical structure for electronic control. Traditional switches with electricity as the core technology gradually lag behind the demand for high speed and large capacity optical communication, which gave rise to all-optical switches in the market. Among them, MEMS optical switches are widely used featuring compact size, low power consumption and good expansibility. 

Advantages of MEMS Optical Switches

Featuring main advantages of integration, low power consumption and low cost, MEMS optical switches can realize the overall remote control of all-optical network. MEMS optical switches combine the advantages of mechanical optical switches, such as low insertion loss, low crosstalk, low polarization sensitivity, high extinction ratio, and the advantages of waveguide optical switches, such as high switching speed, compact size and easy integration. The performance of MEMS optical switches can meet the technical requirements of DWDM all-optical network. MEMS devices have high single-batch yield, good economical efficiency, and good repeatability between devices, providing more possibilities for reducing system costs.

Applications of MEMS Optical Switches

MEMS optical switches are widely used in optical communication, such as protection switching system of optical network, light source control in optical fiber testing, real-time monitoring system of network performance, testing of optical devices, construction of OXC equipment, optical add/drop multiplexing, optical testing, optical sensor system, etc.

Application in MCS (Multicast Switch)

Multicast switch (MCS) based on PLC technology and MEMS technology is the key component of ROADM. Each function unit consists of M independent Splitters and N independent MEMS optical switches. It provides N upstream (or downstream) ports to connect to M directions.

Application in iODF (Intelligent Optical Distribution Frame)

The iODF can be used to replace the traditional distribution frame on the industry private network through cascaded integration of optical switches.

Application in Construction of OXC

In all optical switching system, optical switch is the key device of optical cross connection (OXC). Through optical switch cascade integration, OXC can be used on a small scale to meet the needs of industry private networks and critical lines in data centers.

Application in Optical Performance Monitoring

MEMS optical switches can be integrated with TOF or OPM, combined with monitoring software, through time division multiplexing OPM, to monitor the DWDM signal channel performance of multi-core fiber in optical cable. It can be widely used in optical transmission network cable monitoring, ROADM network, DCI and so on.

Application in Optical Fiber Monitoring

MEMS optical switches can be integrated with OTDR, combined with monitoring software, through time division multiplexing OTDR, to monitor the quality and status of optical fiber in the multi-fiber optical cable. It can be widely used in PON network cable monitoring, optical transmission network cable monitoring, industry network cable monitoring, etc.

Application in Fiber Optic Sensing

The sensing market has great potential, and the main products are 1x4 and 1x8.

Application in Test Instrumentation and Factory Automation

The market scale for test instrumentation and factory automation is relatively small, but with high added value, and has high requirements for the optical properties of optical switches, such as insertion loss, return loss, repeatability, etc.

Application in DWDM

It can be used in equilibration of signal channel power, attenuation of link node power, optical protection of optical receiver, and fast control over on/off of optical path.

MEMS Optical Switches in All-Optic Network

All Optical Network (AON) realizes network transmission and switching process all though optical fiber, that is to say, data is transmitted from the source node to the destination node in the optical domain, and the electrical/optical, optical/electrical conversion is carried out only when entering or leaving the network. Network speed is greatly enhanced because there is no need to carry out electrical/optical and optical/electrical conversion in the optical domain. The main technologies of all-optical network include optical fiber technology, SDH, WDM, optical switching technology, OXC, passive optical network technology, fiber amplifier technology and so on.

Among all optical network devices, optical cross connection device (OXC) and optical add/drop multiplexing device (OADM) are the core device technology of all optical network, while optical switches and optical switch arrays are the core technology of OXC and OADM. MEMS optical switches, featuring small size, light weight and low power consumption, can be compatible with large-scale integrated circuit manufacturing technology, and is easy for mass production, integration and expansion, thus helps to reduce costs.