Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Mechanical Engineering–Engineering Mechanics (PhD)

College, School or Department Name

Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics


Craig Friedrich


Current copper based circuit technology is becoming a limiting factor in high speed data transfer applications as processors are improving at a faster rate than are developments to increase on board data transfer. One solution is to utilize optical waveguide technology to overcome these bandwidth and loss restrictions. The use of this technology virtually eliminates the heat and cross-talk loss seen in copper circuitry, while also operating at a higher bandwidth. Transitioning current fabrication techniques from small scale laboratory environments to large scale manufacturing presents significant challenges. Optical-to-electrical connections and out-of-plane coupling are significant hurdles in the advancement of optical interconnects.

The main goals of this research are the development of direct write material deposition and patterning tools for the fabrication of waveguide systems on large substrates, and the development of out-of-plane coupler components compatible with standard fiber optic cabling. Combining these elements with standard printed circuit boards allows for the fabrication of fully functional optical-electrical-printed-wiring-boards (OEPWBs).

A direct dispense tool was designed, assembled, and characterized for the repeatable dispensing of blanket waveguide layers over a range of thicknesses (25-225 µm), eliminating waste material and affording the ability to utilize large substrates. This tool was used to directly dispense multimode waveguide cores which required no UV definition or development. These cores had circular cross sections and were comparable in optical performance to lithographically fabricated square waveguides.

Laser direct writing is a non-contact process that allows for the dynamic UV patterning of waveguide material on large substrates, eliminating the need for high resolution masks. A laser direct write tool was designed, assembled, and characterized for direct write patterning waveguides that were comparable in quality to those produced using standard lithographic practices (0.047 dB/cm loss for laser written waveguides compared to 0.043 dB/cm for lithographic waveguides). Straight waveguides, and waveguide turns were patterned at multimode and single mode sizes, and the process was characterized and documented. Support structures such as angled reflectors and vertical posts were produced, showing the versatility of the laser direct write tool.

Commercially available components were implanted into the optical layer for out-of-plane routing of the optical signals. These devices featured spherical lenses on the input and output sides of a total internal reflection (TIR) mirror, as well as alignment pins compatible with standard MT design. Fully functional OEPWBs were fabricated featuring input and output out-of-plane optical signal routing with total optical losses not exceeding 10 dB. These prototypes survived thermal cycling (-40°C to 85°C) and humidity exposure (95±4% humidity), showing minimal degradation in optical performance. Operational failure occurred after environmental aging life testing at 110°C for 216 hours.