Optical waveguide amplifiers based on polymer materials offer a low-cost alternative for inorganic waveguide amplifiers. Due to the fact that their refractive index is similar to that of standard optical fibers, they can be easily coupled to existing fibers with low coupling losses. Doping the polymer with rare-earth ions that yield optical gain is not straightforward, as the rare-earth salts are poorly soluble in the polymer matrix. This review article focuses on two different approaches to dope a polymer waveguide with rare-earth ions. The first approach is based on organic cage-like complexes that encapsulate the rare-earth ion and are designed to provide coordination sites to bind the rare-earth ion and to shield it from the surrounding matrix. These complexes also offer the possibility of attaching a highly absorbing antenna group, which increases the pump efficiency significantly. The second approach to fabricate rare-earth doped polymer waveguides is obtained by combining the excellent properties of SiO2 as a host for rare-earth ions with the easy processing of polymers. This is done by doping polymers with Er-doped silica colloidal spheres.
Slooff, L. H., van Blaaderen, A., Polman, A., Hebbink, G. A., Klink, S. I., van Veggel, F. C. J. M., ... Hofstraat, J. W. (2002). Rare-earth doped polymers for planar optical amplifiers. Journal of Applied Physics, 91(7), 3955-3980. https://doi.org/10.1063/1.1454190