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Arrayed Waveguide Gratings

Acronym: AWG

Definition: optical filter or multiplexer devices based on arrays of waveguides

More general term: optical filters

Category: photonic devices

How to cite the article; suggest additional literature


An arrayed waveguide grating is a (typically fiber-coupled) device which can separate or combine signals with different wavelengths. It is usually built as a planar lightwave circuit, where the light coming from an input fiber first enters a multimode waveguide section, then propagates through several single-mode waveguides to a second multimode section, and finally into the output fibers. Wavelength filtering is based on an interference effect and the different optical path lengths in the single-mode waveguides: any frequency component of the input propagates through all single-mode waveguides, and the output in any channel results from the superposition (interference) of all these contributions. The wavelength-dependent phase shifts lead to a wavelength-dependent overall throughput for any combination of an input port and an output port.

arrayed waveguide grating
Figure 1: Structure of an arrayed waveguide grating.

Particularly for AWGs with large numbers of channels, a high precision of the fabrication is required for achieving a low channel cross-talk.

AWGs can be realized with different material systems, e.g. based on silica (SiO2), indium phosphide (InP), or silicon (Si).


Arrayed waveguide gratings are mainly applied in optical fiber communication systems, in particular in those based on multi-channel transmission with wavelength division multiplexing (WDM), where individual wavelength channels must be combined or separated. They can be part of more complex photonic integrated circuits, functioning e.g. as WDM data transmitters. An arrayed waveguide grating may also be used for separating the lines in the optical spectrum of a supercontinuum source, or in a pulse shaper for ultrashort pulses.


The RP Photonics Buyer's Guide contains 9 suppliers for arrayed waveguide gratings.

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[1]C. Dragone, “An N × N optical multiplexer using a planar arrangement of two star couplers”, IEEE Photon. Technol. Lett. 3 (9), 812 (1991), doi:10.1109/68.84502
[2]S. Chandrasekhar et al., “Monolithic eight-wavelength demultiplexed receiver for dense WDM applications”, IEEE Photon. Technol. Lett. 7 (11), 1342 (1995), doi:10.1109/68.473492
[3]H. Ehlers et al., “Optoelectronic packaging of arrayed-waveguide grating modules and their environmental stability tests”, Optical Fiber Technol. 6, 344 (2000), doi:10.1006/ofte.2000.0341

(Suggest additional literature!)

See also: optical filters, wavelength division multiplexing
and other articles in the category photonic devices


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