We discuss several applications of both resonant and non-resonant subwavelength gratings (SWGs) for silicon photonics. We present results of evanescent field molecular sensing using the transverse magnetic mode of a 0.22 μm thick silicon slab waveguide with a resonant SWG, which couples a free space laser beam to the silicon waveguide mode. The optical readout of this configuration is almost identical to the established surface plasmon resonance sensing technology. Using calibrated sucrose solutions, we demonstrate a bulk refractive index sensitivity of 111 nm/RIU in good agreement with rigorous coupled wave analysis calculations. The binding of a monolayer of streptavidin protein on the waveguide surface is monitored in real time with a signal-to-noise ratio of ~500. In another application, non-resonant SWGs are used to create effective dielectric media with a refractive index that can be tuned between the values of silicon (3.48) and SU-8 polymer used for the cladding (1.58). For example, we present SWG waveguides with an effective core index of approximately 2.65, which exhibit lower propagation loss than photonic wire waveguides of similar dimensions. We use these SWG waveguides to demonstrate highly efficient fiber-chip couplers.© (2010) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.