Testing optical switches

Optoelectronics and New Technologies laboratory


Successful Test Readiness Review of the ESA’s ITT optical switch for space applications (with no moving parts)

In the context of photonic technologies, for use in optical communications, networks and systems, there is a strong interest in the development of new optical switching technologies. Many different approaches are available in the terrestrial communication world today to provide this function. Such approaches can also be adopted for the space environment as they are mechanically reliable by design. The applications for which these parts can be used are in multiple input/output switches to perform logical functions or more additional features. Most of the commercially available fiber coupled optical switches, are based on opto-mechanical technologies. These technologies are very reliable with a relatively low cost for most of the terrestrial applications. Although many other technologies including several approaches which steer the light without the need of moving mechanical parts (Acouto-optic, Electro-optic, Thermo-optic approaches) could be applied, the fact is that they have little commercial opportunities in comparison with opto-mechanical approaches.

This study is therefore focused on a comparison and trade-off of the available switching technologies (all with no moving parts) and their suitability in space applications and environment. The review includes all the possible switching technologies including Acouto-optic, Electro-optic, Waveguide EO, Bulk EO, Magneto-optic, Liquid crystal, Thermo-optic and micro/nano photonics waveguides.

With the successful TRR, ATN can start the tests related to the different technologies optical switches.