Optical MEMS

Xerox researchers have developed, on a single silicon chip, technology that could help route high-capacity fiber optics to small businesses and homes.

Bandwidth demand for data handling and delivery is growing exponentially, thanks to on-demand high quality video streaming, video conferencing, gaming, business and other internet applications.

Xerox's "all optical" technology has the promise to provide affordable, large bandwidth, high capacity fiber optic network routers directly to businesses and homes.

Xerox is now making the patents encompassing this technology available for purchase or license.

Technology Description

Xerox scientists combined two technologies- Photonics and Micro-Electro- Mechanical Systems to produce a breakthrough Optical MEMS system.

Xerox's technology integrates an optical MEMS photonic switch with planar light circuits on a single silicon chip small enough to fit on a fingertip - a first ever achievement. Xerox technology combines a MEMS switch with optical "waveguides".

"Waveguides" are very small conductors of light, about 5 to 6 microns or 1/10 the thickness of a human hair. The Xerox Optical MEMS - waveguide shuttle acts like a miniature train track switch for the fine waveguides, avoiding the problems of earlier, mirror-based optical MEMS switches.


Current routing devices such as the Reconfigurable Optical Add/Drop Multiplexers (ROADMS) provide rapid handling and delivery of information and data. However, ROADMS that use current configurations can be of very large dimensions and cost prohibitive.

With the Xerox Optical MEMS, an entire ROADM can be compressed to sizes no larger than 2 cm x 1.5 cm. In addition, it can direct enormous amounts of data in ways that currently require large racks of assembled equipment. Xerox innovative Optical MEMS technology cuts down both the size and cost of the ROADMS by a factor up to a 100, thereby opening up the home and small business markets.

Also, today's optical networking equipment must switch from the electron to the optical to the electron domain. This switch, typically at the end user, slows data transmission and is sometimes referred to as the "last mile" problem.

Xerox's technology, instead, enables switching in an efficient all-optical domain. Because it controls the flow of light rather than the flow of electrons, it is ultimately faster, smaller and cheaper. Xerox's technology holds the promise to solve the proverbial "last mile" problem.

Further, Xerox's optical MEMS switches and waveguides are made together on a single crystal silicon wafer using widely available semiconductor processing equipment. Such on-chip integration avoids the complex alignment issues associated with manually connecting different and larger components with optical fibers, and avoids the cost and space associated with manufacturing, assembling and packaging the separate components of Add/Drop Multiplexers.

In addition, the new technology eliminates the need for technicians to make routing changes in the field, ultimately bringing bandwidth to consumers faster.


Xerox's Optical MEMS require minimal interconnects, which means reliability and also much lower manufacturing cost and weight. A few of the industries where Xerox Optical MEMS would find uses are listed below:
  • Telecommunications (ROADMS, Variable Optical Attenuators etc.)
  • Biomedical
  • Sensor technology
  • Aerospace industries
  • Automotive
  • Real time signature (Failure) analysis and Diagnostics in machines
  • Robotics
  • Others

Intellectual Property Summary

Xerox Intellectual Property includes patents, patent applications, and know-how.

For your convenience and review, we have provided a sample of selected patents from our portfolio.

U.S. 7116880 Decreased crosstalk in adjacent photonic waveguides
U.S. 6506620 Process for manufacturing micromechanical and microoptomechanical structures with backside metalization
U.S. 6479315 Process for manufacturing micromechanical and microoptomechanical structures with single crystal silicon exposure step
U.S. 6479311 Process for manufacturing micromechanical and microoptomechanical structures with pre-applied patterning

For Licensing Information

To learn more about licensing or purchase of Xerox Optical MEMS technology.