Agilent Technologies Inc. described its efforts to develop an optical cross-connect switch component based on technology used in ink-jet printers from Hewlett-Packard Co. At the Optica Fibers Conference on Tuesday (March 7), J.E. Fouquet of Agilent reported that her group has developed a 4 x 4 optical device based on a silica planar lightwave circuit matrix.
Trenches are etched in the matrix of the Champagne switch, and a refractive index-matching fluid is used to fill the trenches. The path of the light then is directed by the location of a large bubble in the fluid, which is generated by a thermal actuator using technology from ink-jet printers. Agilent used the 4 x 4 prototype to design a 32 x 32 multi-stage optical switch, configured as a Clos-style multistage array. When hermetically sealed, the switch has a projected lifetime of 20 years.