Systems and methods for suspended polymer photonic crystal (SPPC) cavities and waveguides are disclosed. In one aspect, photonic crystal cavities are provided. An exemplary photonic crystal cavity can include a substrate having a trench. A polymer film can be suspended above the trench thereby forming a gap between the polymer film and the substrate. The polymer film can include a plurality of holes to thereby form at least one optical cavity. The plurality of holes can have a lattice spacing, and each hole can have a radius. The radius and lattice spacing of the plurality of holes can be adapted to increase a gap-midgap ratio. In another aspect, photonic waveguides are provided. In another, methods for fabricating an SPPC are provided. In another, methods for sensing using a polymer photonic crystal ladder cavity are disclosed. In another, methods for optical filtering using an SPPC waveguide-coupled cavity drop filter are disclosed.
STATEMENT REGARDING FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH OR DEVELOPMENT
 This invention was made with government support under grant No. DE-AC02-98CH10886, awarded by the Department of Energy, Office of Basic Energy Sciences. The government has certain rights in the invention.