NJIT's Micro-electronics Center Developing Micro Mirror to Enhance Optical Fibers

NEWARK, Jan. 7--An optical attenuator/switch that is a key component for optical communications systems is one of the MEMS devices being developed through the New Jersey MEMS Initiative, based at the New Jersey Institute of Technology Microelectronics Research Center. Working in collaboration with Bell Laboratories of Lucent Technologies, NJIT students and staff, led by Kenneth Farmer, professor of physics and center director, have developed "large-area" micro-mirrors, 0.7 mm on a side, for redirecting light along one or more optical fibers. The mirror is flat, and in response to a voltage applied across the gap, bends uniformly into the cavity to redirect light without distortion. The devices will be used as variable attenuators for equalizing the intensity of wavelength channels in dense wavelength division multiplexing (DWDM) telecommunications systems. All-optical switching systems using similar mirrors are currently being developed.

Smaller micro-mirrors have previously been made using conventional thin film deposition and micromachining technologies, but the larger device required by the attenuator application called for a different approach, since the stresses in deposited thin films cause them to lose flatness over larger areas. The solution was found in the ultra-thin silicon wafer, bonding technology developed at NJIT. The team has developed two generations of prototypes of these deflectable, gold-plated silicon micro-mirrors. The prototypes, tested at Lucent, led to a joint NJIT/Lucent patent application and are currently being considered by investment and licensing groups for commercialization.


NJIT is a public, scientific and technological research university enrolling more than 8,800 students. The university offers bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees to students in 80 degree programs throughout its six colleges: Newark College of Engineering, New Jersey School of Architecture, College of Science and Liberal Arts, School of Management, Albert Dorman Honors College and College of Computing Sciences. The division of continuing professional education offers adults eLearning, off campus degrees and short courses. Expertise and research initiatives include architecture and building science, applied mathematics, biomedical engineering, environmental engineering and science, information technology, manufacturing, materials, microelectronics, multimedia, telecommunications, transportation and solar astrophysics. Yahoo! Internet Life magazine cites NJIT as a "perennially most wired" university.

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Robert Florida
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