Optics and Photonics Journal, 2013, 3, 298-304
doi:10.4236/opj.2013.32B070 Published Online June 2013 (http://www.scirp.org/journal/opj)
Effects of Quantum well Size Alteration on Excitonic
Population Oscillation Slow Light Devices Properties
Hassan Kaatuzian, Hossein Shokri Kojori, Ashkan Zandi, Reza Kohandani
Photonics Research Laboratory (PRL), Department of Electrical Engineering, Amirkabir University of Technology
(Tehran Polytechnic), Tehran, Iran
Email: hsnkato@aut.ac.ir
Received 2013
This paper investigates the effects of quantum well size changes on center frequency and slow down factor of an slow
light device. In this way, we consider the quantum well size alteration effects on oscillator strength and binding energy
of exciton. First, we investigate the variations in oscillator strength of exciton due to different quantum well size. Sec-
ond, exciton binding energy level shift due to size of quantum well is investigated. According to this analysis, we have
developed a new method for tuning slow light device bandwidth center frequency and slow down factor. Analysis and
simulation of a basic GaAs/AlGaAs quantum wells optical slow light device based on excitonic population oscillation
shows that size of quantum wells could tune both of the frequency properties and slow down factor of an optical slow
light device. In our simulation with 34 quantum wells each with the width of 60Å, we have received the slow down
factor of more than 60,000. These achievements are useful in optical nonlinearity enhancements, all-optical signal
processing applications and optical communications.
Keywords: Slow Light; Coherent Population Oscillation; Quantum Well; Exciton Oscillator Strength; Exciton Binding
1. Introduction
During past years several experiments have shown the
possibility of controlling the speed of light [1]. Optical
buffers have lots of potential scientific and engineering
applications [2].
The applications of such an optical buffers (OB) could
be 1) bit level synchronization; 2) data packet synchro-
nization; 3) Optical gates and 4) boosting nonlinear in-
teraction [3-4-5]. There are several methods to slow
down the speed of light. Each of these methods are dif-
ferent in their mediums and principles. Slow light could
be realized by methods such as electromagnetically in-
duced transparency (EIT) in an ultra-cold atomic cloud,
waveguide in photonic crystals, coupled resonator optical
waveguide [6-7]. By considering the principle of the
slow light, these techniques are categorized in WG dis-
persion and material dispersion [3]. In this paper, our
focus will be on material dispersion.
For achieving the slow light in semiconductors, large
material dispersion should be obtained. For this goal,
coherent population oscillation (CPO), stimulated Bril-
louin and Raman scattering, four wave mixing (FWM)
and EIT can be used [1-5]. There are many research re-
ports about semiconductor optical buffer because of their
advantages in compactness, integration with other optical
devices, ability of tuning the buffer parameters and wide
range of working temperature. Recently, there are huge
uses of CPO and FWM in quantum well (QW) and
quantum dot (QD) semiconductor to change in absorp-
tion or gain spectra [2-8].
The excitonic population oscillation has been success-
fully presented by Ku et al [1]. The experimental setup
consists of a linearly polarized pump tuned to the reso-
nance energy of 1s heavy-hole (HH) exciton in quantum
wells which is incident in the QW growth direction, as
shown in Figure 1. A weak signal with parallel or or-
thogonal polarization to the pump propagates along QW.
Pump causes variation of absorbance and phase delay [9].
Dephasing mechanisms exhibit observable features in
absorption spectra. However the effect of excitation in-
duced dephasing and spin flip should be considered in
formulation for the dephasing of population in semicon-
ductor quantum structure under intense pump. According
to these considerations, slow light base on excitonic
population has shown in [1].
There could be several choices to control an optical
buffer. These control procedures can be divided in two
sections. The first one is before the fabrication and the
second is after the fabrication. Before fabrication, the
techniques such as changing the QW geometry, the dop-
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. OPJ
ing, the alloy percentage and the materials of QW could
be employed to design a practical optical buffer [7]. Af-
ter fabrication, current injection and pump intensity are
the choices for tuning of OB. Pump intensity change the
Rabi frequency of QW material and the population of
carriers; so, these parameters affect the profile of absorp-
tion spectra which could change the steep of refractive
index in resonance frequency [5].
In this paper, the effects of changing quantum well
size on tuning slow device properties will present. Con-
sidering the effect of change in quantum well width and
dielectric constant mismatch on binding energy and os-
cillator strength, we developed a new technique for con-
trolling the slow dawn factor (SDF =/
cv) and the
bandwidth center frequency. According to simulations,
for the constant effective length of QWs, decreasing in
QW width and as a result increasing in the number of
QWs will cause two effects. First one is slow down fac-
tor enhancement. So, increasing in oscillator strength of
exciton will improve the slow down factor. Second effect
is enhancement in binding energy and downshift of cen-
ter frequency. So, increasing in binding energy of exciton
will shift frequency response of a quantum well slow
light device in frequency domain.
This paper is organized as follows. In section 2 theory
of slow light via excitonic population oscillation, the
effect of quantum well width on oscillator strength and
binding energy of excitons are presented in three subsec-
tions. Section 3, shows the modified model for descrip-
tion of a slow light device to investigate oscillator
strength effects. The results and discussion is presented
in section 4, also in this section we present our new tun-
ing technique. Section 5, concludes the paper.
2. Theory
Figure 1 shows typical schematic of a multiple quantum
wells (MQW) structure which is contained pump and
probe signal for slow light purpose.
Figure 1. MQW in presence of pump and signal for slow
light purpose.
For investigation the effect of exciton oscillator
strength (EOS) and binding energy on slow light device,
three experiments in GaAs/AlGaAs multiple quantum
wells were considered. The first experiment is about slow
light using excitonic population [1]. The second experi-
ment introduces the dependence of EOS on quantum well
width [10-11]. The last one, considers the effects of QW
size on binding energy of excitons [12]. It is worth men-
tioning that this topology was selected as a test bench
and the results of analyses can easily be used in other
implementations of slow light devices as well.
2.1. Dependence of EOS on Quantum Well
Absorption of excitons can be described in terms of ex
(dielectric constant) as follows [9]:
exexr exi
 (1)
where exr
and exi
are respectively the real and
imaginary parts of ex
, ex is the transition energy of
and E are linewidth (FWHM) and the pho-
ton energy, respectively. Parameter
is related to os-
cillator strength per unit area. Absorption coefficient
is related to oscillator strength per unit area f by [13]:
ef EE
nm cL
) (2)
 
where 0 is the free electron mass and is the well
width. is the light velocity in vacuum and is re-
fractive index of the material. The oscillator strength per
unit area can be obtained as follow by comparing equa-
tions (1) and (2):
According to [11], for narrow wells, the factor A is
directly proportional to oscillator strength, f, and related
to well width as 2
L. As a result, the EOS is re-
lated to width of quantum well inversely.
Figure 2 shows the behavior of EOS for ground state
HH1-CB1 according to quantum well width. The pa-
rameters which are used to simulate are the same with
2.2. Dependence of Binding Energy on Quantum
Well Width
The exciton bound-state energies and wave functions as a
function of spatial dimension calculated according to He
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. OPJ
Figure 2. Well width dependence of the excitonic oscillator
strength in GaAs/AlxGa(1-x)As with different alloy percent-
age x.
model [14]. The discrete bound-state energies and orbital
radii are given by [14]:
where is quantum number, and n0
are effec-
tive Rydberg constant, 0
(/((/ )))
)( /
, and effec-
tive Bohr radius, 00
(( /
 
, respectively.
are the Rydberg and Bohr radius constant,
is the free electron mass, μ is exciton reduced mass, 0
is dielectric constant.
According to Equation (5), the binding energy of the
1s exciton is given by:
ES (6)
changes between 2 and 3 in real quantum well struc-
ture. Reduction in well width causes compression in en-
velope function of electron and hole pairs.
Consequently the fractional dimension
from 3 towards 2 [12]. Although in a very narrow wells
because of spreading of envelope function in barrier level
the spatial extents begin to increase as the well width
According to Figure 1 which describes the geometry
of a slow light device, the well width of QW is finite.
When the well width decreases below a specific value,
the envelope function spread into barriers. This phe-
nomenon restores the three dimensional character of ex-
citons. As a result, fractional dimension
should be
expressed as a function of spreading of envelop function.
As a result the fractional dimension
is described as
follows [12]:
2(2/ )/2
 (7)
In above equation and
are respectively, the
wave vector in barrier and the mean value of the three
dimensional Bohr-radius which is defined as follows:
is a mean value of the three dimensional re-
duced mass of exciton. The binding energy of the com-
bined exciton in a finite quantum well is defined as fol-
lows [12]:
(2/)/2 2
(1 0.5)
where E*
is the mean value of the effective Rydberg
energy for the three dimensional exciton. The details of
solutions and the exact definition of parameters can be
found in [12].
Figure 3 shows the behavior of binding energy for
ground state HH1-CB1according to quantum well width.
The parameters which are used to simulate are the same
with [12-14]. It is important to note that Figure 3 does
not show the binding energy under 50 Å well width. Un-
der 50 Å, the behavior of binding energy will change and
because of spreading the envelop function in barrier level;
the amount of binding energy will decrease. However in
this paper, we don’t consider this phenomenon because
in quantum well slow light device the width of quantum
well is more than 50 Å.
2.3. Slow Light Using Excitonic Population
In this subsection, the primary attention is description of
general theory of slow light in semiconductors. “Equa-
tion (11) shows the group velocity of an optical pulse in a
medium with refractive index ()n
vdn n
Figure 3. Well width dependence of the binding energy in
GaAs/AlxGa(1-x)As with different alloy percentage x.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. OPJ
Slow light in semiconductor can be obtained by in-
creasing the refractive index. One possible way for re-
ducing group velocity is using materials in which
/dn d
is as large as possible [14]. The refractive index
of such sample is typically small [15-16]. But it varies
rapidly in the region of the resonance so /dn d
hence ng can be large. However, the absorption near
resonance is very high. So, all of light is absorbed in the
length of the device [16]. But, the effect of absorption is
canceled by using coherent optical effect. Laser beam
called pump laser, is tuned to one of the resonance fre-
quency of material. It causes a narrow dip in absorption
in profile [17].
In materials with saturable absorption, when a strong
pump and a signal beam of slightly different frequencies
interact, the population of ground state will oscillate in
time at the beat frequency of two input beam. This phe-
nomenon is called coherent population oscillation [16].
In the rest of this section, we consider a slow light
system with excitonic population oscillation which is
described in [1]. In a simple two level system, the co-
herent population beating induced by the frequency dif-
ference between the signal and the pump can produce a
dip in the absorption spectrum if dephasing time is much
shorter than the relaxation time of the population differ-
ence [18]. For investigating of dispersion in such system,
usually semiconductor Bloch equations is used. Moreover,
only the first C-like and HH-like quantized bands are
taken into consideration [15]. Table 1 shows the defini-
tions of parameters which are used in this subsection.
The coherent dynamic equations for Interband polari-
zation and carrier occupation numbers are as follows [1]:
2, ,
1,,, ,
[()] 2
exex exex
iiNPi N
 
 
where (0)
is the respective population difference in
equilibrium. This equation, (12), is valid only in low ex-
citation regime. In this approximation the effect of elec-
tron hole plasma screening and phase space filling are
not include and the equation can be solved in the steady
state region. With relevant optical equation in semicon-
ductor, the linear relative permittivity tensor ()
experienced by the signal is obtained. Refractive index,
absorption and slow down factor are defined respectively
as follows:
() ()
()2 Im[()]
ss ss
Re[ ()]
()Re[()] ss
ssss s
Table 2 shows the experimental parameters which is
used in [1-15] for calculations. According to the absorp-
tion coefficient and real part of refractive index are
shown in [19], for resonance frequency the value of
/dn d
is high. So, the group index increases rapidly
and the effect of slow light can be seen in device.
3. Modified Fourier Transform Spectral
Interferometry Model for Slow Light
For modeling a slow light device, the model which is
described in [20] is used. This model gives an analytical
expression for the full dielectric constant of Wannier
exciton of arbitrary dimensionality, d, [21]. The effective
dimensionality d, is a parameter that can vary between 2
and 3 in quantum well, depending on the ratio of the QW
thickness to the exciton Bohr radius. Moreover, d is also
related to the spatial extension of the exciton in the bar-
riers. The complex dielectric constant according to this
model is [20]:
Table 1. Definition of the symbols.
Table (2). Physical device parameter for GaAs/Al0.3Ga0.7As.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. OPJ
0.5 1
() ([()][()
 
2( )
() 11
()(1 )
where ()
is Euler gamma function, and Eg are
the effective Rydberg and band gap energy,
linewidth, and is parameter which is related to exci-
ton oscillator strength. The function
is defined as,
() ))
( /(zRE
Considering the heavy and light hole, the total dielec-
tric constant for the QW is defined as follows [20]:
() 1()().
background heavylight
 (17)
It is worthwhile to note that in the case of excitonic
population oscillation for slow light purpose, only the
heavy hole contribution is considered.
Since we want to investigate the effect of oscillator
strength on slow light device, we changed the sign of
dielectric constant. Because of pump signal configuration
in quantum well and absorption cancellation, the steep
direction of refractive index near resonance frequency is
changed. So we have to change the sign of dielectric
constant to use this model for slow light devices. Base on
this modified model, the refractive index profile for QW
slow light device with different oscillator strength is
shown in Figure 4. EOS is change with aim of reducing
or increasing QW width. As it is clear from this figure,
increasing the oscillator strength will cause improvement
in steep of refractive index.
Figure 4. The refractive index profile for QW slow light
device with different oscillator strength. The solid line
shows experimental result of [1].
In Figure 4, the parameters values are , RH =
4.3 meV, Eg = 1.56 eV,
meV, according to
[20-22]. On the other hand according to “Equation (11)”,
slow down factor is directly proportional to derivative of
refractive index. As a result, increasing the EOS will
cause enhancement in slow down factor.
4. Results and Discussion
4.1. Binding Energy Effects
According to mentioned theory in section (2.2), the
binding energy will increase if the size of quantum well
decreases. “Equation (19) shows the dependence of ex-
citonic energy to binding energy”. This equation shows
that if binding energy is increased, the excitonic energy
will be decreased.
Excitonic energy presents the center frequency of slow
light device base on excitonic population oscillation. As
a result, the size of quantum well in slow light device can
shift center frequency of device. This shift is upward
when the well width is increased and downward when
well width is decreased. With aim of this phenomenon,
we can tune the center frequency of our slow light de-
To verify the effect of quantum well size on center
frequency of device, we simulate the experimental device
which is presented in section (2.3) with different well
width sizes. The parameters for simulation are extracted
from [1-10-12].
Figure 5 shows the refractive index of a quantum well
slow light device with three different well width sizes.
As it is clear from this figure, the resonance frequency of
GaAs/Al0.3Ga0.7As QWs is shift with changing well size.
The refractive index profile broadening in Figure 5 is
Figure 5. The refractive index profile for QW slow light
device with different binding energy. The solid line shows
experimental result of [1].
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. OPJ
very narrow because we want to show these three cases
in one coordinate. Beside, in Figure 5, the effect of QW
size on EOS is neglected. As far as we know, near reso-
nance frequency the derivative term in “Equation (11)”
increases rapidly and causes huge slow down factor.
Moreover, the transparency window is created which
causes cancellation of absorption effect. The size of well
width determines the location of transparency window in
frequency domain.
Table 3 shows the frequency shift and center of a slow
light with three different well widths. Experimental well
size of [1] is considered as origin. It is important to note
that there is obviously limitation to reducing QW size.
As mentioned in previous section, under specific well
width size which is about 50Å the behavior of binding
energy changes and other phenomenon happens.
Base on simulation results of this subsection, the cen-
ter frequency for QW slow light device will decrease if
the well width of quantum well decreases and the number
of QWs increases. The number of QWs must be in-
creased because the effective QWs width as mentioned in
Table 2 should be constant. For example if the well
width is divided by factor 2, then the number of QWs
must be increased by the same factor.
4.2. Exciton Oscillator Strength Effects
According to theory (2.1), we will use the effect of de-
creasing length of quantum well as parameter for in-
creasing the EOS.
Base on simulation results of section (3), the slow
down factor for QW slow light device will increase if the
well width of quantum well decreases and the number of
QWs increases. The number of QWs must be increased
based on the same reason which mentioned above. To show
the usefulness of the proposed method, the GaAs/Al0.3
Ga0.7As multiple quantum wells shown in Figure 1 was
simulated. But this time, we consider the effect of reduc-
ing QWs width.
Figure 6 shows the slow down factor for three differ-
ent QWs width. It can be seen that decreasing the well
width will increase the slow down factor.
5. Conclusions
We investigate the effects of excitonic oscillator strength
and binding energy of exciton on slow light devices.
Table 3. Frequency shift according to well width size.
Figure 6. The slow down factor for three different QWs
width. The solid line shows experimental result of [1].
According to described model in section (3), the slow
down factor can be increased to more than 60,000 in the
result of reducing well width. Moreover, the center fre-
quency of transparency window can be shift about
3.0476 × 1012 Hz with aim of binding energy. When QW
size is changed, both oscillator strength and binding en-
ergy of excitons are affected. Therefore, when the device
experiences downshift or upshift in its transparency
window, in the same time, the amount of slow down fac-
tor is increased or decreased respectively. Based on these
investigations, the new method for tuning slow light
properties is developed. This novel technique will help
designer to control properties of device. As far as we
know, semiconductor slow light devices suffer from nar-
row bandwidth. Moreover there are huge uses of mul-
tichannel system for slow light devices to overcome lim-
ited bandwidth problem. Multichannel systems need slow
light devices with different center frequencies. With the
aim of this technique, designers could fabricate devices
with different center frequencies and slow down factor.
Because of availability of center frequency shifting and
SDF controlling in this method, we could tune our slow
light device for optimal operational point. In addition,
this availability of frequency shifting in slow light device
could be interpreted as increasing of operational band-
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