The future powered by Polariton

The plasmonics modulator technology has been developed for more than 6 years at ETH Zurich, Switzerland. Key to our technology is the coupling of light with electrons at a metal surface. Light is coupled to the metal surface as Surface Plasmon Polaritons (SPPs). This way we are able to confine light below the diffraction limit.




Energy Consumption

Market Volume



0.01 mm

>500 GHz

10 fJ/bit

Very high volume

First products 2021

Lithium Niobate

100 mm

35 GHz

1000 fJ/bit

Low volume

In operation for > 20 years

Silicon Photonics

5 mm

40 GHz

100 fJ/bit

High volume

First products emerging

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    All-plasmonic Mach–Zehnder modulator enabling optical high-speed communication at the microscale


    Optical modulators encode electrical signals to the optical domain and thus constitute a key element in high-capacity communication links1,2. Ideally, they should feature operation at the highest speed with the least power consumption on the smallest footprint, and at low cost3. Unfortunately, current technologies fall short of these criteria4. Recently, plasmonics has emerged as a solution offering compact and fast devices5,6,7. Yet, practical implementations have turned out to be rather elusive. Here, we introduce a 70 GHz all-plasmonic Mach–Zehnder modulator that fits into a silicon waveguide of 10 μm length. This dramatic reduction in size by more than two orders of magnitude compared with photonic Mach–Zehnder modulators results in a low energy consumption of 25 fJ per bit up to the highest speeds. The technology suggests a cheap co-integration with electronics.

    Plasmonic Organic Hybrid Modulators—Scaling Highest Speed Photonics to the Microscale


    Complementing plasmonic slot waveguides with highly nonlinear organic materials has rendered a new generation of ultracompact active nanophotonic components that are redefining the state of the art. In this paper, we review the fundamentals of this so-called plasmonic- organic-hybrid (POH) platform. Starting from simple phase shifters to the most compact IQ modulators, we introduce key devices of high-speed data communications. For instance, all-plasmonic Mach-Zehnder modulators (MZMs) are reviewed and long-term prospects are discussed. This kind of modulator already features unique properties such as a small footprint (<; 20 μm 2 ), a large electro-optic bandwidth (> 110 GHz), a small energy consumption (~25 fJ/b), a large extinction ratio (> 25 dB) in combination with a record small voltage-length product of 40 Vμm. Finally, as an example for seamless integration we introduce novel plasmonic IQ modulators. With such modulators we show the generation of advanced modulation formats (QPSK, 16-QAM) on footprints as small as 10 μm × 75 μm. This demonstration ultimately shows how plasmonics can be used to control both phase and amplitude of an optical carrier on the microscale with reasonably low losses.

    High-speed plasmonic modulator in a single metal layer


    Plasmonics provides a possible route to overcome both the speed limitations of electronics and the critical dimensions of photonics. We present an all-plasmonic  electro-optical modulator (116–gigabits per second) in which all the elements—the vertical grating couplers, splitters, polarization rotators, and active section with phase shifters—are included in a single metal layer. The device can be realized on any smooth substrate surface and operates with low energy consumption. Our results show that plasmonics is indeed a viable path to an ultracompact, highest-speed, and low-cost technology that might find many applications in a wide range of fields of sensing and communications because it is compatible with and can be placed on a wide variety of materials.

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